Raising Your Level Of Engagement
Engagement has become one of the most popular buzzwords in business; but what does it mean and why does it matter? Gallup does some of the leading research on employee engagement in the workplace. According to them, 0ne way to think of engagement is someone’s commitment to their work and making positive contributions to the organization for which they work. Along those lines, when employees put their organization and work at the heart of their decisions and actions, those companies should experience greater overall success.
What is interesting is that engagement is something managers and executives talk about a lot. They are always trying to figure out how to help create a more engaged workforce. This is a vexing problem because according to Gallup’s engagement work, 13% of workers were engaged in their work in 2013. That leaves two-thirds of employees not engaged, and the scariest statistic is that roughly ¼ of employees are actively disengaged. Actively disengaged employees are, according to Gallulp, unproductive and can spread their negativity around the workplace. They are toxic. Most people reading this article probably just had a flashback to a former or current co-worker as the poster child of disengaged.
These statistics from around the world have been consistent since 2009, though improvement has been noted in recent years in the rise of engaged employees and a decrease in actively disengaged. Even with those improvements, most people would argue that improving the number of engaged workers and minimizing or eliminating the actively disengaged could result in a serious competitive advantage. The other obvious opportunity in business are the employees that fall in the middle; the ones that are not engaged. Oftentimes these are good, hard-working employees, but they are not quite committed or fully invested for one reason or another. There is always the chance they could fall into the actively disengaged camp, but just as easily they could be brought around to the engaged side. Why wait for an employer to take these steps? There are opportunities all around us to put ourselves in the engaged category.
Workforce engagement is something that every person in an organization can play a role in, no matter where she or he sits. Unfortunately, sometimes unengaged workers are only that way because they do not know how to become engaged. Just because management or leadership has not opened their eyes up to it does not mean it cannot happen. Think about how successful you could be if you were recognized as someone who was engaged at work. Would that open up opportunities? How would work look and feel differently?
Gallup’s study shows higher levels of engagement for people with more autonomy in their work. This makes a lot of sense. Where people are free to use their knowledge, skills and creativity, they are naturally putting more of themselves into their work. Some may find this difficult, after all, not everyone is a graphic designer or web developer. However, even those working in highly-routinized jobs have the ability to make a greater personal investment and raise their own level of engagement. Remember, engagement is about being committed to the work and the organization. There are always going to be people that just want to show up, punch the clock, do their work and head home with a paycheck. For those that choose to work at a higher level, there are ways to move yourself toward being engaged at work.
Take stock of your job and what is around you. Most people get into a new position and receive training about how to do it. This instruction is definitely valuable, but once someone has mastered a job or task, be on the lookout for ways to make improvements. These can relate to anything ranging from safety to efficiency to quality. Avoid taking processes for granted, good or bad, and bring a new idea to your work.
Thinking about improvements is a start, but there also has to be a dialogue to turn them into a recommendation. Every situation, suggestion and organization is going to be different. Major changes requiring significant resources will likely need to be vetted by a lot of different people. Other improvements may be implemented easily at the line staff level. Start the conversation when you have an idea and see where it goes. Not every recommendation can be adopted, but the exercise of thinking about it and making the pitch is a good start, and will also get you noticed.
Reflect on Your Importance
If you have not done so already, think about the many stakeholders that are part of your work. Who is involved in the process before it gets to you (upstream), after you (downstream) and who are the final customers? Even the most monotonous tasks can become more rewarding when we think about the people that are ultimately going to benefit from our product or service. All too often people take their own work for granted. There is value in what people do, but we do not always see it ourselves. Think about why what you do is important and you will automatically become more motivated and invested to perform at a high level.
Being one person on a mission to make a significant change can be a lonely place. No matter what you do and how positive you are, there are still going to be people that choose to not be engaged or, worse yet, are actively disengaged. Understand what you can and cannot control. Co-workers’ actions are outside of our control, but we can all control our actions and outlook. This is where you can influence and make positive contributions in the workplace and raise your organization’s level of employee engagement.
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