These tough economic times have had a noticeable impact on the talent scene in organizations. I'm highlighting some of the latest research, findings and thought leadership from key players on the present state of engagement and what organizations can do moving forward to achieve success.
#5 DDI -- Pulse of the Workforce
So, how's the workforce doing? You guessed it. The outlook in engagement is not good. In a fascinating report, DDI presents findings that reveal the majority of individual contributors (i.e. in non-leadership positions) are disengaged, unsatisfied and feel as though their roles are stagnant. To quote the report, "They are 'In the No,' that is, they have no challenging assignments, no opportunity to learn new skills or to advance, no recognition, and, we suspect, no idea how their jobs fit into organizational objectives." These employees are not giving their heart to their organizations -- they're simply doing the job and going home. Moreover, they feel as though they have no reason to stay if a better opportunity comes along. Perhaps the glimmer of hope that stems from this research is that not all individual contributors desire to be promoted to leadership. Engagement need not be solved in the costly manner of promoting people up the food chain. There are other solutions!
#4 The McKinsey & Company -- Motivating People: Getting Beyond Money
So what's a company to do? McKinsey's research finds that not only do non-financial incentives motivate -- they motivate even more than money! The positive effects of bonuses and raises are short-lived. Rather, employees report that praise from immediate managers, attention from leadership (such as one-on-one conversations), and a chance to lead challenging projects are the most effective ways to engage them.
#3 Hewitt Associates -- What Makes A Company A Best Employer?
And the companies that take these insights to heart? They became the best employers! Leadership commitment, compelling promises to employees (and execution!), connection to the company and strategy, differentiated high performance culture, and aligned people practices constitute the key components of top employers. In sum, Hewitt's research found that the Best Employers, "have aligned their people practices with a company strategy and created an environment that produces positive employee experiences and strong business results." That's positive employee experiences AND strong business results. Thank goodness it's not an either/or game!
#2 Towers Perrin -- Perspectives - Employee Well-Being
While challenge and opportunity to lead motivates, too much challenge may be a bad thing. Late nights, fast food, workplace stress all serve to lower employee well-being, which Towers Perrin reports has direct links to employee engagement. By pushing their employees to produce, companies may see short-term gains while eroding long-term, sustained results. To the extent that work life degrades employee well-being, it also reduces employee engagement and productivity.
#1 NeuroLeadership Institute - SCARF Model
My favorite thought leadership of late comes from the NeuroLeadership Institute, which identifies optimal leadership trends based on neuroscience research. This research, also presented in Strategy+Business' "Managing With The Brain In Mind", highlights five individual psychological needs: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness. If these needs are thwarted, performance and productivity is undermined. Essentially, organizations should minimize threats related to status (think flat organizations), maximize information sharing and transparency from leadership, refrain from micromanaging employees, promote social connections among staff and employ fair management practices.
All this research seems to reiterate the same thing! Inspiring employees to be engaged and productive is not just about the money -- it's about winning their heads and hearts by offering an optimal amount of challenge, ensuring they feel valued and exhibiting sincere concern for their well-being. Confirmation bias at its best? Perhaps it's simply the truth.