Here’s the good news: 13% of employees worldwide are actively engaged. Here’s the bad: 20% of employees are actively disengaged. And here’s the really bad news: 87% of employees worldwide are not engaged in the business.

According to Gallup’s latest survey across 142 countries, staff needs have been left well behind. The USA and Canada topped the charts with just 29% staff engagement.

Having spent decades entertaining customer focused strategies, businesses thought they were taking a positive step forward from the old product centric strategies. And they were impressed with their ability to do so. However, as people become more important and focus shifts to the way business is conducted, the question of “Which people are important?” arises. Are customers the only ones we really care about? It seems so.

While companies pride themselves every year on the latest personal development and change management strategies sweeping through the office, the truth is out – it’s not working! Implementing mass produced personal development programmes cannot satisfy individual needs. Year after year the business focus is on bottom line results. Global financial crisis or not, staff are the ones making business happen. Without them, you wouldn’t be in business. It seems management has paid lip-service to caring.

Australia needs to be careful not to pride itself on having the second highest level of engagement in the world with 24% engagement, along with New Zealand. That’s 76% not engaged with the business. If you think that is enough for your business, then keep doing what you are doing. If 76% of your customers were not happy, would you act? Yes. Well, 76% of your internal customers are not happy. It’s time to act!

Is it a fad?

Businesses need to be wary that employee engagement is not simply another fad to be bandied about for awhile. Considerable resources can be expended to invest in change and staff morale, and still have no impact at all. However, companies may do best to simply state their true position. Not every company cares or wants to care about employee engagement. Some might even boast they never will care.

4 methods to engage employees

Meaningful work: The key here is to ensure that the employee fits with their tasks and that their work is actually meaningful for them. Ask employees how they believe they can add meaning to their work, and what this looks like for them. Let them shape it if you can’t. Allowing employees to change the scope of their position may bring rewards beyond what you expect, and increase the happiness of the employee. If a person finds no meaning in their work, it’s time to see if another position in the company is better suited to them or simply help them transition out of the company.

Open communication: Lip service is often paid to having open communication channels. Most managers think they do, but is any employee going to tell their manager they don’t? Ask yourself: “Can every employee say what they really feel and be heard?”

Supportive leadership: It is critical that employees feel they have someone above them who supports the work they do and what they offer to the business. If employees engage with the business by presenting new ideas, only to have them constantly knocked down, it won’t take long before they stop offering suggestions and disengage.

Some money talks. Some doesn’t: Dan Ariely, in his research on human behaviour, has shown that small incentives given frequently to employees motivates them the most. It’s not the amount but the frequency of unexpected bonuses that can engage your employees. Giving $100 to an employee who thought outside the box, and continuing to give rewards unexpectedly throughout the year, will have more impact on their performance than an annual bonus they have to wait for 12 months for.

If you are serious about employee engagement, invest in an independent researcher to conduct one-on-one interviews with your staff to find out what is really going on and where to invest your resources for true and lasting change.

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