In 1999, director and creator Mike Judge released Office Space – a cinematic satire of corporate America that anyone who’s ever worked in an office may – unfortunately — be able to relate to. It follows Peter Gibbons, a thoroughly frustrated office employee who loathes his job and the cubicle in which he is forced to spend his days. At the suggestion of his then girlfriend, Peter undergoes hypnosis to deal with his unhappiness. The suggestion backfires spectacularly when Peter becomes too relaxed, engaging in behavior that, while hilarious, would no doubt get him fired in the real world.
Employers — correction, GOOD employers — never want employees to feel as Peter did. They want them to feel valued, to feel engaged. So, this begs two questions:
- What is employee engagement?
- How is it increased effectively?
According to author Kevin Kruse, employee engagement is “the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals.” But it’s also the level of commitment. Being engaged superficially – i.e. only to the extent an employee needs to be to maintain their job — is far different than being passionately committed. Today’s employees want more than a paycheck; they want acknowledgement; they want to know that the work they do matters.
Sadly, as the statistics below reveal, that often isn’t the case:
- 48% of workers have left their job because it wasn’t what they thought it would be.1
- Half of employees would sacrifice their salary, as much as 29% of it, to work a job they enjoy.1
- 69% of employees say they’d work harder if they were better appreciated.2
- Roughly 70% of Americans are disengaged at work.3
How, then, can employee engagement be effectively bolstered to combat these dismal statistics?
First and foremost, they must be a strategic priority. Half-hearted attempts have no place here, as former Campbell Soup CEO, Douglas Conant clearly demonstrated when he took over in 2001. Conditions for the century-old company were dire. They had not only lost 54% of their market value in just one year, but faced the worst employee engagement levels ever seen among the Fortune 500. Conant went to work and slowly turned the tide, directing his focus on his employees by building a culture of engagement. By 2009, his efforts produced a remarkable 23:1 engaged to disengaged employee ratio and a 30% rise in Campbell’s stock value.
Try implementing some of the same strategies to see if focusing on employee engagement will have a similar impact at your company:
- Be flexible. Employees (most-of-the-time) are adults. Treat them as such. The more discretion they have — such as a flexible schedule and dress code like what we have here at VP — the more they feel trusted, resulting in greater productivity.
- Encourage career growth: Lack of opportunity often translates into employees feeling undervalued, as if they aren’t worth the investment. Whereas, companies that invest in learning and development experience a 24% higher profit margin and a 218% higher income per employee than those without a formalized training program.4
- Listen with Intention: Most people listen just enough to formulate their response. Instead, make the decision before a conversation ever begins to be present. Put away the distractions and allow for uninterrupted speaking time. When an employee feels they’ve been heard, it builds a connection; engaging them in a profound and lasting way with the company.
- Be transparent. Open lines of communication are invaluable. Level with your employees to the extent you’re able. Bad news is always a little less so if told upfront. Share company goals and the role employees will play in achieving them. Communication generates trust and respect, and when employees feel both, they go the extra mile.
By implementing these strategies as a strategic priority, employee engagement will increase overtime, resulting in potentially significant gains financially, but most importantly, employee satisfaction — something, we as an employer ourselves, can definitely stand behind!
About VP Engineering
VP Engineering is a dynamic MEP design firm offering electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, plumbing engineering and LEED consulting expertise in senior living, multi-family, hospitality, medical, industrial, retail/commercial and educational markets worldwide. With experience in a wide range of building types, our MEP engineering services help keep projects on budget and achieve your goals.
- 1 HRDive
- 2 HubSpot
- 3 Gallup Poll
- 4 Association for Talent Development