Excerpts from: BUILDING A CULTURE OF ENGAGEMENT: THE IMPORTANCE OF SENIOR LEADERSHIP

By Brian Lucas

This is the fifth in a series of excerpts from white papers I am posting due to the gracious generosity of Katie Iorio-Martin in response to the enthusiastic requests for more information by many of her interview readers.  For more information go to www.dalecarnegiewayphilly.com.

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common
vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward
organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common
people to attain uncommon results.” – Andrew Carnegie

45% of managers and supervisors are engaged, only 23% of other level workers are fully engaged according to recent research from MSW Research.

It is important for every manager to understand that work is being done by workers not managers.  A worker engagement level of only 23% is a shocking indictment of management!  Learn the importance of senior management in building a culture of employee engagement!

BUILDING A CULTURE OF ENGAGEMENT:
THE IMPORTANCE OF SENIOR LEADERSHIP

Dale Carnegie Training White Paper

Dale Carnegie Training Logo

Copyright © 2012 Dale Carnegie & Associates, Inc. All rights reserved.   driveengagement_101512_wp

Why does one organization get a reputation as a great place to work while another struggles to retain its employees? It’s never a simple matter of company A paying more than company B. Financial incentives may attract more applicants, but they don’t connect an individual personally to an organization. The level of commitment, the willingness of an employee to recommend his or her company as a great place to work and to do business — what we call engagement — can make or break an organization.

Dale Carnegie Training examined the rational and emotional factors that impact engagement in the workplace. The research identified senior leadership practices and behaviors as a critical area of focus. From the quality of the people they hire, the resources and training they give them, the level of communication with employees, to the way employees are compensated, the climate of the working environment is a reflection of senior management.

THE BUSINESS VALUE OF ENGAGEMENT

Senior leaders often find it difficult to assess the impact of employee engagement on their business performance. The Dale Carnegie Training study revealed that seven out of ten employees are not fully engaged in the workplace. Just under half do what is expected of them but feel undervalued and are unwilling or unable to put in any extra effort.

More pernicious are disengaged employees, who represent over a quarter of the workforce across the US. They exhibit negative behaviors and undermine the accomplishments of their coworkers. The effect can be seen in decreased output and a rise in accidents, absenteeism and staff turnover. With disengagement having such a detrimental effect on the workplace, some employers may consider it better just to let disaffected workers go, but these employees can carry their discontent outside, damaging the organization’s reputation with customers and potential future hires.

Sixty-nine percent of disengaged employees would move to a new employer for as little as a 5% pay increase, whereas it would take a 20% increase in salary to attract an engaged employee.1 Therefore, any shift from disengaged to engaged reduces turnover costs and should not be downplayed. The Institute for Research on Labor and Employment put the figure to recruit and train a replacement worker at 150% of salary, including lost productivity.2 The current talent squeeze in some sectors, especially the tech and health care industries, may mean that a position remains unfilled for a considerable period of time after an employee quits. This is likely to become more problematic as the economy improves and workers have more employment choices.

On the other hand, while disengaged employees cost employers time and money, engaged employees drive business. The twenty-nine percent of workers who are fully engaged do more in less time than their colleagues. The resulting benefits are felt within the organization and beyond: greater productivity, increased customer satisfaction, repeat business, and higher profit for the organization and its shareholders. Given these facts, it is surprising that 75% of organizations have no engagement plan or strategy, although 90% say engagement impacts business success.3

CREATE A CULTURE THAT ENCOURAGES ENGAGEMENT

Create a Culture that encourages engagement

Senior leaders are the visible face of the organization. They set strategic and cultural goals and steer the company in the right direction to achieve their vision. Through positive attitudes and actions they can build a culture of engagement that involves and inspires all employees. Sixty percent of employees who have confidence in the abilities of senior leaders and think that senior leaders are moving the organization in the right direction are fully engaged, compared with less than a third who disagree with the statement.

Employees want to be able to voice their opinions and to know that their opinions matter. Unsurprisingly, employees who say their company encourages open and honest communication are more engaged. They welcome the opportunity to share concerns and work together to find solutions. Sixty-one percent of employees who say they are satisfied with the amount of input they have in decisions affecting their work are engaged. When employees feel they lack opportunities to express opinions or they feel their voice is unheard, they tend to become unmotivated.

Most employees know what is expected of them, but the opportunity to grow and develop new skills and try new things drives engagement. Senior leaders establish engagement by providing a clear career path, ensuring employees receive helpful feedback and initiating training programs throughout the organization.

Workers need to feel that what they do is meaningful and that they are working for a successful company. Sixty percent who feel they have an impact on the direction of the company are engaged. People want to feel they belong to a community that shares their values. When the values of the organization and the employee align, and when employees see organizational behaviors that reflect those values, they are engaged. For example, one-third of employees say their organization values diversity; of those, 55% are engaged. Management can reinforce its commitment by ensuring a safe working environment where
employees feel that their health and well-being are supported.

There is a direct correlation between corporate responsibility and employee engagement. The engagement level is twice as high (54% vs 25%) among those who say they are proud of contributions their organization has made to the community.

Senior leaders can further generate engagement in the workplace by promoting a spirit of teamwork and cooperation. This positive peer interaction allows employees to look forward to going to work and helps them create long-lasting friendships among their colleagues. These are the employees who feel proud to be working for their organization and act as ambassadors for it.

MEASURING EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT

Effective people management does not come from a one-time performance review; it is an ongoing process. Senior leaders need to invest time and resources to measure engagement. Questionnaires and face-to-face interviews should be conducted on a regular basis, and the results should be analyzed and the information used to take future actions. Discover why people leave by conducting exit reviews. Employees need to feel confident that they can express themselves and feel sure when they offer their opinion that they are safe from
repercussions. Bear in mind that some employees may lack the motivation to respond.

Likewise, failure to ask the right questions may mean signs of disengagement go unnoticed. Encourage employee feedback and follow through on the results. Failure to act is worse than not acting in the first place. If employees think the person conducting the interview does not value their opinion, they will become disillusioned, which leads to complete disengagement.

ACTION PLANS TO ADDRESS IDENTIFIED WEAKNESSES

Every organization needs its own unique development plan based on the findings of
its research. Management needs to understand how engaged employees segment
by department and location, the factors that are enhancing engagement and those
that detract from it. With this knowledge, senior leaders can develop a targeted
action plan at the individual, departmental and organizational levels.

  • Organizational level:
    Senior leaders set the tone for the organization and define its goals. These behaviors and goals needs to be clearly defined, realistic for the employees to achieve and communicated throughout the organization. This will create a shared sense of responsibility for the success of the organization. 
    Workers’ perception of senior leaders tends to be less positive than their perception of immediate supervisors, possibly because they are distanced from managementand more likely to concentrate blame for all problems in the organization on the executives. Leaders have to project a positive manner in all interactions with other managers and employees and be accessible to them.
  • Departmental level:
    Engaged senior leaders act as a positive role model for all employees, but in 
    particular they serve as a role model for immediate supervisors who in turn build more engaged teams. Engaged managers are more likely to have an engaged team; disengaged employees probably have a disengaged manager, too. Each team or department needs to understand how its roles and tasks fit into the organizational vision. Use the diversity of skills, experiences and backgrounds within the team to create an enthusiastic and innovative environment. Build a climate of trust within the team, ensuring that the necessary feedback supervisors give is well-received and improves overall performance. See that supervisors support the individual members of the team and care about them on a personal level. Encourage employees to learn from managers’ strengths.
  • Individual level:
    Think of employees as internal customers; they are key assets in implementing and maintaining 
    the culture of engagement that leads to an organization’s success. Employees who say their employers “care about how I feel about our overall business” are more engaged.4 Determine how the individual’s personal ambition aligns with the organization’s goals. Encourage individual development and recognize individual accomplishments. Praise publicly, reprimand in private and coach individuals who do not demonstrate behaviors that encourage engagement.

HOLD EVERYONE ACCOUNTABLE

Senior leaders establish the parameters for an engaged workplace while immediate supervisors who interact on a daily basis with employees are in the best place to evaluate engagement levels at the individual level. It is up to senior management to support immediate supervisors and ensure they have the appropriate skills and motivation to identify and understand changes in engagement levels. Individual employees are responsible for their own actions and interactions with coworkers, which contribute to a positive working environment. Respectful peer feedback builds engagement throughout the team.

REWARD ENGAGEMENT BUILDERS

All employees want their contributions to be acknowledged. Successful executives set
realistic targets and value sustained effort, rewarding employees and managers who increase productivity and who build enthusiasm. These rewards need not be financial, but they should be meaningful — offering the same incentives time after time leads employees to think management doesn’t really care about them. Benefits and incentives can be customized to appeal to different segments of the workforce. Recognition and praise in addition to physical incentives promotes engagement.

CONCLUSION

Effective senior leaders recruit the right people for the job, motivate them by giving them
clear goals and responsibilities, and train them throughout their careers. Senior leaders
who trust their employees, communicate positively with them and recognize and reward
their work tend to build an engaged workforce that gives their organization a competitive
advantage.

REFERENCES
1 Apostle Employee Engagement Report 2012, Dale Carnegie Training/MSW Research
2 Employee Replacement Costs Working Paper 2010, Institute for Research on Labor and
Employment, UC Berkeley
3 Reward to Engage 2008, Accor Services
4 Apostle Employee Engagement Report 2012, Dale Carnegie Training/MSW Research

FURTHER READING
Dale Carnegie Training White Papers (2012)
“Why Employee Engagement Matters and What Drives It”
“The Dynamics of Employee Engagement”
“Emotional Drivers of Employee Engagement”
“Enhancing Employee Engagement: The Role of The Immediate Supervisor”

About Brian Lucas

In his life, Brian Lucas has been a coach, farm worker, forester, health care advocate, life guard, general contractor, mechanic, mixologist, musician/singer (in a rock group), salesman and teacher. Brian has worked as a project manager, technical marketer, methodologist, manager, software architect, systems designer, data modeler, business analyst, systems programmer, software developer and creative writer. These efforts include over a hundred hi-tech initiatives in almost every business and industrial sector as well as government and military projects. Among them, he designed and developed a quality assurance system for the first transatlantic fiber optic communications network, a manufacturing system for a large computer manufacture’s seven manufacturing centers, a data mining system for steel production, an instrumentation system for cable systems, defined requirements for government’s information systems and designed and developed human performance management systems. Brian has educated and mentored many over the years, designing programs to discover and develop talent. He has also lectured extensively to a variety of audiences. Brian is currently devoting as much time as possible to the innovation of business agility and human capital management along with the next generation of agile software development. As an amateur theoretical physicist he is working on joining general relativity and quantum mechanics through a multidimensional time corollary on string theory and negating the uncertainty principle with Louis de Broglie’s wave/particle hypothesis. He is also an avid blue-water sailor and wilderness backpacker. He enjoys billiards, boxing, chess, cooking, famous battle reenactments and war gaming, fencing, flying, gardening, horseback riding, martial arts (particularly Ninjutsu), philosophy and psychology, playing musical instruments (7 so far), poker, rapid-fire target shooting, reading (he tries to read a new book every night), painting with oils, scuba diving, skiing and recently writing novels.
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16 Responses to Excerpts from: BUILDING A CULTURE OF ENGAGEMENT: THE IMPORTANCE OF SENIOR LEADERSHIP

  1. Jack says:

    Holding everyone accountable is a key to driving organization change. When workers feel that management screw ups have no consequences they are not engaged.

    • Brian Lucas says:

      I agree Jack nothing destroys employee morale faster and more thoroughly than having a management team immune to responsibility and criticism, especially the CEO. It is far better still to move to an environment where the blame game is not played and issues are dealt with on a team rather than an individual basis. Thanks as always for commenting.

  2. Jolene Womack says:

    Thank you Brian and Katie for posting this series of white papers. I am looking forward to seeing if you collaborate again.This is very relevant in my book to what ails companies and why they are not profitable. What I find most distressing is the earlier research that Brian posted in an article about HCM shows the same statistics. This means things aren’t getting better. Katie and Brian can you answer why that is the case?

    • Brian Lucas says:

      Jolene – I have not discussed this with Katie, so I am speaking only for myself. Things are actually getting better, but we are having a great deal of difficulty measuring it. The reason for this is somewhat complicated.
      First, there is a considerable shift in workforce marked by an exodus from the large corporate world to freelancing and entrepreneurships. Both of these are very hard for research organizations to survey no matter how diligent and expert they are. If you look at the satisfaction of these employees it runs 90 to 95%. Until they become understood as mainstream, it is even difficult to measure the economy accurately since many of the currently used economic indicators are based on an older economic model that is rapidly becoming outdated. To get this information you need to go to mixers, hang out in coffee and cigar shops, etc. it’s all under the radar so to speak. Its rather like the early days of WWII, if you were a character that blended in, you could find a treasure-trove of information on what the axis powers were planning in the Southeast Asia from the bars, wharfs and dives of Amurang, Balikpapan, Hollandia, Port Moresby, Makassar, Medan, Samarang and Soerbaia and what was known as the East Indies.
      Second, with all the pressure in the marketplace today organizations that were generally felt to be good places to work are becoming war zones as executives attempting to preserve the status quo drive more demand down into the workforce without changing their own behavior. These managers are not necessarily all bad people. Some are, some are not, but they all are refusing to adjust to the changing times. They are putting the workforce between a rock and a hard place by freezing salaries and demanding more work in a weaker economy. The problem is that they far too often take salary increases themselves instead of practicing what they preach. This creates a great deal of disenchantment in the enterprise.
      Third, there are two opposing trends which add more confusion to the issue. There is a strong movement of people, particularly highly talented people are leaving work they are not passionate about, even when it pays well, for something they are passionate about even of it pays less. This is happening even in the corporate structure. Opposing this, is a trend for traditional jobs that people were happy or at least satisfied in to be eliminated by technology. This can at times force them to work in jobs they are not comfortable in, are not always trained for or are totally unsuited for. Eventually as the younger workforce that is technologically savvy grows up into the workforce this problem will resolve itself. It puts many in an untenable position in the interim. Because these changes are happening sometimes literally overnight, a person can be happy one day and miserable the next.
      There are other factors, but I think these are the major ones. It will be interesting to see Katie’s perspective if she has the time to comment on this. -Brian

  3. Janil Borak says:

    Senior management is the key! Nothing happens until they have an awareness and an attitude change! When this is done as a gimmick it actually does more harm in my opinion. So that raises the question, and I’ll address it to both Katie and Brian. How can you tell when senior management is serious about employee engagement and when their just paying lip service and going through the motion. Katie since this article was originally provided by you from Dale Carnegie, I am most interested to see what you have to say.

  4. Holbrook-T says:

    If you don’t have senior leadership leading the way nothing is going to happen. This is a good article with solid research, but it doesn’t state it strongly enough. I believe that the Watson-Wyatt research was more firm in its conclusions. Employee engagement begins with attitude from the top it is not a grass roots campaign.

  5. Rici Gishel says:

    Good article! I will have to check out Dale Carnegie training!

  6. Andrew Bingham says:

    At least half the senior leadership that implement employee engagement programs are only playing lip service to them or are naive idiots who think their stupid, simplistic and surface initiatives can deal with the deep problems of corruption in their companies that they themselves caused. I like to see if this comment gets approved and what Brian and Katie have to say about it.

  7. Julie Nemeth says:

    Hi Katie and Brian: Any chance of a follow up post?

  8. Kevin Broch says:

    This is 100% correct! Obviously Katie practices what she preaches which is why she is successful and retains valued employees! She clearly, “Gets it”. It is unfortunate that more CEOs do not! I too am interested in hearing what Katie has to say as to why more senior mangers don’t understand or care about this!

  9. Renee Silverman says:

    I don’t see how this can happen at a grass roots level without senior management leading the way. If anyone else has an example of a low level effort succeeding with senior management or a transformation taking place from the bottom up please respond!

  10. Rosalind Dawn Mellor says:

    Thank you for posting this research and thank you for your inspiring interview Katie. I have struggled being an introverted woman in a man’s business world. I was so awestruck by your interview and the impression you left on Brian in his introduction that I will have to take a Dale Carnegie course here in Chicago.

  11. Jessica says:

    I am with you there Rosalind!

  12. George Hewlett says:

    Brian and Katie – are you following up at all with this series? I thought there was going to be a follow on!

  13. Jessie says:

    Brian you haven’t posted since May what gives? We miss you!!!!!!

  14. Georgette Anders says:

    Hi: Katie! I thought you and Brian were going to post more content on this. Did you post it elsewhere? This is very interesting to me and should be a major concern of all business people! Why aren’t the satisfaction numbers getting any better? I just watched a webinar that Brian did on Agile’s Evolution and it was very informative though fast paced. In it he cover something he called hybrid organization structures. My question is what do you think of the hybrid approach? Does it help keep employees engaged and cut down on excessive management layers?

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