When I pitched my first management book in 2004, no one knew what employee engagement meant. Compare that to now, when employee engagement is on the forefront of the corporate world, and it’s easy to notice a pivotal shift in what we think is necessary in the workplace.
According to a Gallup survey, only 29% of America’s workforce is engaged, with 54% not engaged, and 18% actively disengaged. That means when employees clock in for the day in your average US workplace, the first thing the majority of them thinks is how much they can’t wait to go home. That statistic would be alarming enough if we were only talking about how engagement impacts the individual lives of employees, but the negative results of disengagement reach much further than the office. So why is engagement a hot topic? Because the positive results of high engagement reach far, too.
No matter how you feel about the phrase “the customer is always right,” it’s true that a happy customer is more likely to be repeat business.
Engagement isn’t just employee experience; it’s also customer experience. We’ve all been on the receiving end of good or bad customer service, from the barista who really cares about his job and chats with a smile, to the cashier who just oozes that she really wants to go home. The former makes our experience delightful, and the latter makes us want to run. But when we step outside of that business, we don’t think about the business and the employee as separate entities; we think of the employee as the face of the company, as a direct reflection of the ideals and attitudes withheld by the corporation.
This means every business has an incredible opportunity to make a positive statement with customers, as every business transaction is preceded by human interaction. The employee who is elated with their job will pass on that enthusiasm to your customer, and the employee who is disengaged will leave customers with a bitter taste in their mouth.
A paycheck is no longer the only thing an employee desires from a job. The quality of a person’s day is rising in necessity. Employee Benefits found that two-thirds of their respondents would take a pay cut to be happier at work, with 11% of those respondents willing to take a cut of 20% or more. This desperation to be find satisfaction in the workplace means disengagement is high, morale is low, and the health and well-being of your employees lower still.
Numerous studies have shown the correlation to a person’s mental health and physical health: what the brain processes the most manifests in the body. So it’s no surprise that disengaged employees report feeling stressed, depressed, and lethargic more frequently than their engaged peers.
Employee engagement is all about crafting a culture that fosters human dignity and self-worth. It supports your employees in the areas they want to focus on, be they mental, physical, time management, etc. It facilitates the optimization of each entire human resource, not just their technical proficiency in their assigned role. With the average employee spending over a third of their adult life at work, a draining environment can be catastrophic while a supportive environment can positively shape a person’s entire approach on life.
For Your Business
No matter how expensive you think crafting and launching engagement programs may be, the cost of not implementing one is much greater.
In 2016, work related stress manifesting in sick days and absenteeism cost U.S. companies $30 billion in lost productivity (Virgin Pulse). It may seem like a stretch to chalk this up to a lack of engagement, until you compare it to the stats that show highly engaged employees take an average of 3.5 fewer absence days than their non-engaged counterparts (Meliorate). Businesses with highly engaged employees consistently outperform low-engagement companies in every measurable field; they have higher productivity, higher shareholder returns, and higher annual net incomes.
It’s simple: engaged employees are better for business.
Upping your employee engagement doesn’t mean you have to paint the office hot pink and give everyone a free pair of flip-flops. It’s not a superficial fix. Higher engagement comes from delving into the environment you can realistically offer to employees and listening to feedback on how you can improve it. Bells and whistles are fun, but at the end of the day it’s about the satisfaction an employee feels in claiming your business as their place of work. You may find engagement programs daunting, but this is a hot topic for a reason: because it works.