There’s not a business owner or manager that would disagree that a highly functioning group of employees or team members is important to the success of a business.
It was spring 1997. I had just been named sales manager for the local division of the national company I worked for. It’s important to know that the person I answered to was hundreds of miles away so all of the daily decisions for sales, personnel, management, marketing, and finances were my responsibility. The balance sheet was my responsibility.
It would be an understatement to say the state of the union, at least within our four walls, was horrible. We had twenty employees in the building and I was experiencing baptism by fire with regards to team management and growing a business.
When I was given responsibility, our division had just gone through three different managers in three years. Employees were demoralized, angry, frustrated, and not very happy. They had a right to be and we were easily the smallest division in the company.
The Gallup Corporation has been tracking employee engagement for the last five years and if they had been tracking it back in 1997, we would surely have skewed the numbers on the negative side, but not by much.
Gallup tracks employee engagement in the U.S. each month and has documented an upward trend in employee engagement over the past three years. That upward trend has seen the numbers increase by four points. In fact, this year, we have hit an all-time high for employee engagement. In March we topped out at 34.1%.
That’s right, only 34.1% of U.S. employees are considered to be engaged in their work. Gallup’s definition of engaged employees relies on the level of agreement, from respondents, to the following:
- They are able to do what they do best each day
- They have someone at work who encourages their development
- They believe their opinions count at work
Sadly, that means today, roughly 67% of employees are not engaged and even more disturbing, 16.7% of the disengaged were actively disengaged. Those are the people that are actively spreading discontent and complaining to other employees.
According to the Gallup Corporation:
“Engaged employees are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work. Gallup’s extensive research show that employee engagement is strongly connected to business outcomes essential to an organization’s financial success, such as productivity, profitability and customer engagement. Engaged employees drive the innovation, growth and revenue that their companies need.”
I recently had the opportunity to listen in to a live interview with Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of Gallup. He asked a question during that interview that really brought the importance of employee engagement home. He asked, “What would happen to the productivity in this country if we could bring that number (engagement rate) up to 50% or even double it to 66%?”
Engagement is critical regardless of the size team. Whether it’s one person or thousands, employee engagement is vital to you as a business owner, practice owner, or manager responsible for the productivity of people.
Back in 1997, we struggled for a couple of years. Sales were low, morale was low, customer satisfaction was low, and profitability was low. It wasn’t much fun. I didn’t know anything about employee engagement back then, except that it was obvious when it was lacking. Gradually, we started turning it around and the difference was like night and day.
Our team became the fastest growing division in the company and we produced two national sales champions. Everybody worked together and enjoyed being a part of the team. I’m certain that our employee engagement rate hit somewhere in the 85-90% range.
While much of our success was largely due to instinct and dumb luck, I now know what the actions were that helped us improve our employee engagement and achieve our success.
As a business owner and/or manager, where do you think your employee engagement numbers are? Do you have room for improvement?