Mar 14, 2016 | Leadership, People

In the past, business success was all about size. Today, it’s all about speed.   But with speed, comes change, and change, as we know, creates fear.  People don’t like change because it’s disruptive.  Employees begin to disengage as they struggle to define where they fit in or fear that they may become obsolete.

Disengagement doesn’t come cheap.  Each year, companies spend nearly $75 billion in an effort to improve an estimated $350 billion annual impact to the U.S. economy in lost productivity. The latest research by Gallup shows that nearly 70% of American workers are disengaged.  Clearly, the dollars being thrown at this issue are making a paltry impact at best.

From productivity to profitability, from safety to shrinkage, clearly employee engagement is not a philosophical exercise.  It has bottom line implications.

Employee engagement is both potential and kinetic in nature. You likely recall potential and kinetic energy demonstrated by Wile E. Coyote in his thwarted attempts to capture the elusive roadrunner.  Potential energy is stored by an object – perhaps a giant spring or over-sized mousetrap. The object is loaded and ready for action.  Kinetic energy is related to the object’s motion – like a coyote arrow launched by a bow.

The same is true of employees.  Engaged employees have both stored and activated energy.  Stored energy comes from having both meaningful work and aligned goals.  Activated energy is an employee’s ability to tap into his or her strengths and the learning and growth afforded on the job.  Together, they make up four pieces of the engagement puzzle.  Here’s a breakdown of each piece:


icons clear-021. Meaningful work. Do your employees know the value your organization brings?  Regardless of whether you are a non-profit or for profit enterprise, everyone in your organization should be passionate about your why. As Simon Sinek argues in his popular TED Talk, people want more than a paycheck.  They want to be a part of something greater than themselves.


icons clear-012. Aligned goals
. Next, employees need to move from the why to the what.  The sooner you can connect your strategic objectives with employee goals and rewards, the better chance you have of turning your strategic plan from theory into reality.  Help employees see how their daily jobs impact goals such as profit margins or market share.


icons clear-043. Strengths-focused
. At this point, your employees are spring loaded and ready to move onto the how. Depending on whether you focus on improving employees’ weaknesses or leveraging their strengths, you can either thwart their enthusiasm or thrust them into action.  Gallup research shows that the best way for employees to grow and develop is to leverage their natural talents to perform at their highest potential.


icons clear-034. Learning and Growth
. Employees under the age of 25 rate professional development as their number one driver of engagement, and workers up to age 35 rate it as the number two priority. As employees get older, their focus on development shifts away from mobility in favor of aligning a job with long-term career goals. Create an environment that gets people engaged and keeps them engaged by providing opportunities to grow and advance.


While 90% of executives understand the importance of employee engagement, fewer than 50% understand how to address this issue.  Design an organization that thrives on turning potential energy into kinetic energy by focusing on the four pieces of the engagement puzzle.


Question: In which of the four pieces of the engagement puzzle does your organization excel?  Where could you use improvement?


Download our infographic:
From Buzz Phrase to Business Case: Why Employee Engagement Really Matters



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