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Who Owns Employee Engagement?

This is a multi-part series on employee engagement based on my interview with New York Times best-selling author Kevin Kruse. As a former business owner and winner of a “Best Place to Work” award, Kevin has a wealth of real-life experience. I’m very grateful for the wisdom he is sharing with The People Equation readers.

Employee engagement is for everyone_Kruse (2)Today’s post addresses the issue of who is responsible for building employee engagement – and you might be surprised by Kevin’s answer.

JVM: You’ve already written two books on employee engagement (We – How to Increase Performance and Profits through Full Engagement and Engagement 2.0). You’ve recently released a third – Employee Engagement is for Everyone. Why another book on employee engagement?

KK: In We, my co-author Rudy Karsan and I used a vast pool of engagement research. It was a far reaching book that tackled the notion of the changing workplace and the secrets to employee engagement. And as I started to do talks about the book a common theme emerged:  This is great stuff, but what are our managers supposed to do on Monday [after they read the book and walk into their office, ready to apply these concepts]?

That is why I wrote Employee Engagement 2.0. It was a guide for managers on how to foster growth, recognition and trust in the work place. And then as I was doing talks for that book, I started getting a new question over and over which was “Why is engagement always a manager’s job or a company’s job? Why is it only about us?”

So, in a way, it was everyone trying to point the finger slightly at someone else is how [this book] came about.  (Laughter)

JVM: The book Employee Engagement is for Everyone explores the question of “Who owns employee engagement?” Correct?

KK: It really brought up this idea which is: doesn’t the individual employee have a role to play?  And what do managers do about those Debbie Downers or David Downers who are bringing a poor attitude to work?  Is it really [a manager’s] job to turn them into engaged, people with a positive attitude?

And so that planted the seed. I researched positive psychology and started looking at what other people were doing in the area of self-motivation and workplace motivation. I stumbled upon a study from IDG Research that found that motivation can be attributed to intrinsic factors about 43% of the time, with the remaining 57% coming from extrinsic factors.

That is when I finally said, alright now I want to do a book [for employees] on engagement. I did the one big sprawling book, then I did one just for managers, now let me do a book for the individual employee.

JVM:  So, employee engagement – are you saying the ownership is a roughly 50/50 proposition? It’s not just the company’s job, it is not just the manager’s job. In essence, it’s all of our jobs?

KK:  Yeah and I think just to build on that further. One of the possible dangers of this book is that people might say that my message is, “Hey, companies don’t have to spend money on [building employee engagement] or “It’s not the manager’s job. It’s up to the individual to fix engagement problems themselves.”  And that is not the message. Employee engagement is really about partnering. [My message is] “Let’s all have a partnership mindset.”

JVM: And the message that the management team should be communicating about employee engagement?

So the message that managers should be sending is: we’ll provide some training and tools to individuals that says, “listen if you are not comfortable doing this, this is how you can be proactive on engagement. Here’s how you can reach out to your supervisor to be a partner in this.”

JVM: Thanks, Kevin, for a great introduction to the premise for your book.

To see all of the posts in the Kevin Kruse Employee Engagement Series, click here.

Disclosure: some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning if you click the link and make a purchase (just viewing the link is free) then I may receive a commission.

 


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This is a multi-part series on employee engagement based on my interview with New York Times best-selling author Kevin Kruse. As a former business owner and winner of a “Best Place to Work” award, Kevin has a wealth of real-life experience. I’m very grateful for the wisdom he is sharing with The People Equation readers.

Employee engagement is for everyone_Kruse (2)Today’s post addresses the issue of who is responsible for building employee engagement – and you might be surprised by Kevin’s answer.

JVM: You’ve already written two books on employee engagement (We – How to Increase Performance and Profits through Full Engagement and Engagement 2.0). You’ve recently released a third – Employee Engagement is for Everyone. Why another book on employee engagement?

KK: In We, my co-author Rudy Karsan and I used a vast pool of engagement research. It was a far reaching book that tackled the notion of the changing workplace and the secrets to employee engagement. And as I started to do talks about the book a common theme emerged:  This is great stuff, but what are our managers supposed to do on Monday [after they read the book and walk into their office, ready to apply these concepts]?

That is why I wrote Employee Engagement 2.0. It was a guide for managers on how to foster growth, recognition and trust in the work place. And then as I was doing talks for that book, I started getting a new question over and over which was “Why is engagement always a manager’s job or a company’s job? Why is it only about us?”

So, in a way, it was everyone trying to point the finger slightly at someone else is how [this book] came about.  (Laughter)

JVM: The book Employee Engagement is for Everyone explores the question of “Who owns employee engagement?” Correct?

KK: It really brought up this idea which is: doesn’t the individual employee have a role to play?  And what do managers do about those Debbie Downers or David Downers who are bringing a poor attitude to work?  Is it really [a manager’s] job to turn them into engaged, people with a positive attitude?

And so that planted the seed. I researched positive psychology and started looking at what other people were doing in the area of self-motivation and workplace motivation. I stumbled upon a study from IDG Research that found that motivation can be attributed to intrinsic factors about 43% of the time, with the remaining 57% coming from extrinsic factors.

That is when I finally said, alright now I want to do a book [for employees] on engagement. I did the one big sprawling book, then I did one just for managers, now let me do a book for the individual employee.

JVM:  So, employee engagement – are you saying the ownership is a roughly 50/50 proposition? It’s not just the company’s job, it is not just the manager’s job. In essence, it’s all of our jobs?

KK:  Yeah and I think just to build on that further. One of the possible dangers of this book is that people might say that my message is, “Hey, companies don’t have to spend money on [building employee engagement] or “It’s not the manager’s job. It’s up to the individual to fix engagement problems themselves.”  And that is not the message. Employee engagement is really about partnering. [My message is] “Let’s all have a partnership mindset.”

JVM: And the message that the management team should be communicating about employee engagement?

So the message that managers should be sending is: we’ll provide some training and tools to individuals that says, “listen if you are not comfortable doing this, this is how you can be proactive on engagement. Here’s how you can reach out to your supervisor to be a partner in this.”

JVM: Thanks, Kevin, for a great introduction to the premise for your book.

To see all of the posts in the Kevin Kruse Employee Engagement Series, click here.

Disclosure: some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning if you click the link and make a purchase (just viewing the link is free) then I may receive a commission.

 


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This guest post is by Don MacPherson, president and co-founder of Modern Survey, a Human Capital measurement software company in Minneapolis. Don is an employee performance expert with 18 years of experience in the field of human capital measurement. Don leads Modern Survey’s consulting and employee engagement practice and oversees all Sales, Marketing, and Consulting efforts. For more information on Modern Survey’s research on employee engagement go to www.modernsurvey.com/fall-2012-national-norms-study-2-op1.

The path to employee engagement is a simple one. The organization makes engagement possible by providing a framework for making engagement possible. That framework begins by communicating a set of organizational values so they are known and understood throughout the organization. Managers and senior leaders are responsible for driving engagement by recognizing employees, developing them, and filling them with belief in the future of their organization. Ultimately, however, each individual employee chooses whether or not to bring their best to work on a day to day basis. That is the frustrating part of the employee engagement equation.

Many organizations have the proper cultural framework in place and a skilled set of managers and senior leaders who are focused on engaging employees, yet these organizations are not able to fully engage the vast majority of their employees. Most employees consciously or subconsciously choose to bring less than their best.

According to Modern Survey’s research, only 13% of the U.S. workforce is fully engaged and another 22% are moderately engaged. That leaves 65% of U.S. employees either under engaged or disengaged. Even among organizations that Modern Survey deems “Extraordinary”, 40% of their employees are under engaged or disengaged. It’s better, but there is still a great deal of performance potential left untapped.

Ask any human resource professional if they expect employees to bring their best to work every day. Most will say “yes”. Then ask if their organization sets an expectation among new hire candidates that, if hired, they are required to bring their best to work. As many as 98% of HR professionals will sheepishly respond “no” to that question.

Much attention has been given to the idea of employees being responsible for their own engagement. This is a strong shift from the manager or leadership owning engagement. At the moment, it’s a flawed concept. The reason is that the vast majority of employees don’t even know what the concept of engagement is. In the Fall 2012 study of U.S. Workforce Engagement, Modern Survey found that only 42% of all employees understand the concept of employee engagement. It’s a massive challenge for people to own their own engagement when they don’t understand the concept. The more depressing statistic is that only 55% of managers of employees responded that they understood the concept of engagement.

Yes, organizations need to create and maintain the framework for making engagement possible. However, if our organizations are to aspire to fully engage the majority of their employees, a huge educational initiative needs to occur. Every manager needs to understand what engagement is, why it is important, what the drivers are and how to have conversations with employees about it. If employers are to hold the individual employee accountable for their own engagement, the educational initiative needs to extend down to each and every employee. It would be unfair to attempt to hold people accountable for something nearly 60% of them don’t understand.

This is the great opportunity for HR professionals. American organizations spend over half their budgets on employees and employee related expenses. There is no other part of our organizations where there is a greater gap between current performance and performance potential. By educating every employee about the concept of engagement and equipping managers with the tools to engage employees, HR professionals can help their organizations close this gap and make a greater impression on performance than any other part of the company.


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