The Harvard Business Review published a great article last month based on Gallup’s latest – State of the American Workplace. One of the shocking conclusions – 67% of Americans have been disengaged at some level over the last 12 years! This blog post is not about the report but rather about the actions you can take to change that engagement level. Before we do that, some quick definitions from Gallup’s Report.

Engaged employees work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company. They drive innovation and move the organization forward. (I’d call them Players.)

Not engaged employees are essentially checked out. They’re sleepwalking through their workday putting time – but not energy or passion – into their work. (I’d call them Spectators.)

Actively disengaged employees aren’t just unhappy at work; they’re busy acting out their unhappiness. Every day, these workers undermine what their engaged coworkers accomplish. (I’d call them Terrorists.)

The report really does leave very little room for complacency. I found the % in the report offensive as I’m sure many leaders would. So what next? Here are five quick actions worth considering to improve the level of engagement in your company. If you think you can scale your business with the majority of your staff disengaged you are being naive.

5 Action Areas
  1. Using email, communicate to staff  the real story driving your company. Spell out what makes you special as a company, what you do, the results you achieve for clients and the client stories that back up your assertions. Choose your words carefully. Boil it down to a memorable paragraph. Use boilerplate thinking. Get it pinned to cubes. Get it memorized. As the leader communicate it at every turn. Repeat it at the end of every press release. 
  2. Get managers in a room and translate for them what the big story means for their department. Explain how your core values, your ambitious plans and your approach to the customer connects to their department. Show how all of this aligns to the common goal. Get your managers to spread the word to their staff.
  3. Use the latest social science research on why people come to work: Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose. Ensure every staff member is clear on their performance profile – the role the company needs them to do well. For each person tell him or her that he or she is the best person to do that role. Tell them within reason they have autonomy to execute that role. Build an internal training environment that allows them to master their craft. Not to master it over weeks or months but years. Finally join the dots between the company’s reason to exist, the boilerplate and their specific role. Give their role purpose within the grand objectives of the business.
  4. Inspire strong engagement by building an innovation culture into the fabric of the company. Innovation is so much more than the new product development team. Hold at least one innovation day every six months where departments need to come up with at least three improvements to existing processes that connect their department to the customer. Tweaking existing processes or products is so much more effective than “brainstorming for genius”. Make it a fun day involving presentations, feedback, and implementation plans.
  5. Using a town hall style gathering of all staff or if impractical, use a collection of smaller meetings to reach all staff, bring it all together by reinforcing your story again. Remind people of the progress you’re making. Share all recent successes, be it client wins, new talent acquired, breakthroughs in product or service delivery. Remind them why every single person in the room has a job to do. Remind them that success will only come with an engaged and aligned workforce and that having fun together leads to making more money.