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Why Discretionary Effort Matters

Recognize This! – We all can do more – if we wanted to. The key is inspiring everyone to do so.

This week I’m at Engage, our annual customer forum to which we invite customers to come, learn from each other and us, and help set our roadmap for the future. I look forward to Engage every year. It’s energizing for me to be with our clients, hearing directly from them and watching and learning from them as they interact with each other.

Engage inspired to write today’s post on discretionary effort. It’s a common term associated with Employee Engagement. Our clients do not have to come to this conference and partner with us in this way. They give discretionary effort – extra time and energy – to come, participate, interact and share their knowledge.

Now think about the discretionary effort your employees are giving. Smart Blogs on Leadership explains it this way:

“Discretionary effort is the difference between the effort an employee is capable of bringing to a job or task and the effort actually required to just get by. According to Impact Achievement Group research, ‘The average American employee feels that the effort a person has to give in order to keep his or her paycheck is about 70% of what they feel they could be giving.’

“Leadership IQ research indicates that 72% of employees polled admit they aren’t giving their best effort. And, in the same study, 77% of their managers agreed.

“There’s clearly a disconnect between what employees are capable of and what many actually do.”

Think for a moment about your employees. Think about the impact it would have on your organization if 75% of your employees gave just half of the additional discretionary effort they could give – just an additional 15% increase in engagement. What kind of impact would that have?

A 2% increase in your operating margin – that’s the impact. That’s the ROI – direct value straight to your bottom-line. (We know this from Towers Watson research.)

How do you get employees to give more discretionary effort? Help them understand the meaning and purpose of their work within a bigger picture. How do you do that? Recognize them – very specifically and in a timely way – when they demonstrate your values in contribution to achieving your strategic objectives. Recognize them when they make progress in their work, not just when they achieve the major goal at the end.

How much more discretionary effort could you give at work.

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