I’m now thoroughly confused. After a week of attacking employee engagement, I’m reaching the conclusion that it is just another one of the many factors to consider in workplace success. Hear me out.
- There are some people who will never be engaged. You should fire them.
- There are some people who are always engaged, no matter what you do to them. You should hire more people like this.
- That leaves the engage-able rump who can be engaged if you work at it.
- But if you’re doing really well, the chances are that they’ll be engaged already so you don’t need to do anything here.
- And if you’re doing really badly, I suggest that engagement isn’t the problem and you should fix some business basics first.
- Which leaves the one situation that warrants working on employee engagement. When things are going OK and there are some people who you can engage to better effect to improve results.
This last situation is where we are in the software industry. The report we released in March on Software Industry Productivity shows that while productivity in the industry is improving, the industry is just barely breaking even. This is the sweet spot when things are going OK, not terribly and not really well.
And boy are there things that can be done. The report on Employee Engagement in the Tech Industry that we released this month shows that employees, for the most part:
- Are not highly engaged;
- Aren’t highly supportive of their employer’s mission;
- Don’t get enough recognition; and
- Don’t get enough feedback.
When asked whether they would recommend their company as a good place to work to a friend or colleague, only 23% of Canadians and 29% of American tech employees would strongly agree.
This is something we can work on improving.
Many years ago, an IBM executive responsible for management training told me that they gave tons of leadership training to new managers just so they wouldn’t go and screw things up for all of their highly valuable direct reports and cause them to be disengaged and quit. IBM had invested too much in them for their managers to mess it up.
It looks like we need some remedial leadership development in the tech industry.
And it looks like I better get off my soap box and on to something more interesting next week. And to think that all of this was started by one little article in the Globe.
I think engagement comes when someone believes that the result is important to them.
It is instinctive response to not care about things that are not important. As a species, if we did that, then we’d be very unsuccessful and would die out. In fact if you believe something is essential to your survival, you can learn and remember information at many, many times the pace you could if you didn’t. Of course, stress needs to be managed – a healthy diet and exercise can help repair the damage from stress. Companies should be providing both and considering it as an investment. Forests, lakes and rivers are one of the most healing environments, possibly because they are abundant in food and that puts your body at rest. Preserving green space and naturalizing your business, rather than yards of grass and tarmack, should increase engagement.
In some countries, people get engaged over food. Or shelter. That explains why they put up with horrendous working conditions and still smile.
But here in Canada or the US, that obviously isn’t a big driver for most. So I think the key is to find drivers that are important to the individual. For some, it is the environment, health, food, great applications, creative design, bonus, options, career advancement and entrepreneurial success.
Those who are most passionate about their subjects and are experts are by far the most engaged group. They desire to be the best and are willing to work hard to achieve it. Of course if you take these individuals and put them in a situation where they can’t contribute in a way that advances them to achieve their goal, then they will probably put up a wall and stop thinking altogether to protect their egos and dreams. You should let them go before you harm them more – it is unethical of an employer to drive these individuals into depression and destroy their lives, and then fire them. This is especially true if they perceive their manager to be less skilled then them and unable to contribute to their end goal. If a manager is less skilled, they need to be presented to their employees as administrators, not as authoritarians. Pay them less. Dealing with employee issues is administrative, it doesn’t deserve higher pay or more rank. Being engaged and contributing to the end result, especially in a technical way, does.
I think alot of people would put up their hands and say a big driver is lifestyle balance. They are less engaged employees. Lifestyle balance just means less time being engaged. That is a great reason to take a job, but it is not a great reason why someone is interested in being engaged within it.
Engagement comes from being determined to see a great result. The result has to be important to the individual. So hire people that are driven to produce great results because they are genuinely interested in a great result and have the skills to execute upon it.
Wow, what a response. Thanks for taking so much time to think about this. In the end I think you’re right, hire people that are driven to produce great results.