According to a recent study by Hewitt Associates, a human resources consulting and outsourcing firm who has studied the issue for 15 years, it certainly can.
The study, appearing on Inc Magazine’s Web site, found that companies with high levels of employee engagement, 65 percent or more, outperformed the total stock market index and posted shareholder returns 19 percent higher than average in 2009. “Engagement” includes things like employee morale, confidence in the company, opportunities, rewards and recognition, and trust in leadership.
Unfortunately, the study found employee engagement at it’s lowest point in the 15 years they have been studying the issue. Companies with disinterested employees, 40 percent or less engagement, had a total shareholder return that was 44 percent lower than average.
While there is nothing too surprising in the report, aside from the fact that, in my opinion, 65 percent engagement is not something I’d celebrate, it is interesting to look at what’s happening in American businesses.
In their quest for higher profits and increased bottom lines, too many companies have forgotten their most important asset as expressed by Sue Romanos, president of Career Xchange, a staffing firm which has managed to thrive, who said, “It’s just as important to keep in mind you have employees and they are your business. The most important asset is human capital.”
What went wrong?
Somewhere back in the 902s, American business began telling employees that their personal life was not to be brought to work. “Leave your personal problems at the door when you come to work,” was the policy.
The problem is, this resulted in employees reasoning that “if the company doesn’t care about me, why should I can about them?” Hence the disengagement.
A Gallup survey in March 2001 concluded that between $292 billion and $355 billion are lost each year in American companies due to disengaged employees. And, here’s the really scary part, that was based on only 19 percent disengagement. Now we’re saying that “only” 35 percent disengaged employees is good? Raise your hand is you want to be the one paying for this! By the way, you already are.
It is time something was done about this and while I can appreciate that it’s a huge and complex problem, I know one thing for certain – change starts with me, then you, and so on.
Former President Harry Truman became known for the sign on his desk to remind him to accept responsibility for the way the country was governed. The slogan on the sign, The buck stops here, is something we can all certainly aspire to.
If you are a business owner or executive, are you treating your employees as best you can? Do you invest in their personal development? Are you an example of someone living in integrity or are you willing to cut corners and “do what it takes to make a buck?”
Do you inspire confidence in your organization, recognize and reward exceptional behavior in your employees, and maintain a high level of morale? If not, why not? And, more importantly, when will you begin?
If you’re an employee, are you bringing your best to work each day? Are you engaged in your work, always on the lookout for ways to improve or are you just marking time, waiting for the day to end?
If you’re being paid to do a job, your employer is entitled to your best. Your work is a reflection of you. If you’re not delivering your best effort, you’re compromising your own integrity.
If we are to change these abysmal statistics in American companies and, once again, reclaim our place among the leaders in business worldwide, we must change how both employers and employees perceive and interact with each other. We must learn to all work toward the same goals.
To do this requires a process wherein everyone is clear about their part in the overall vision for the company and is committed to it’s success. It requires management and employees alike to become willing to take responsibility for their contribution to the greater good. And it requires an investment in the personal growth and skills of the most important asset in the company, your people.
Below is a simple process for getting started moving in the right direction:
1. Take responsibility. All too often we are quick to blame circumstances, the economy, or a host of other causes for less-than-stellar outcomes in a given situation.
2. Make integrity a must. This is not an option. The only way companies will survive and thrive into the future is by making integrity an absolute must throughout the organization.
3. Challenge limiting beliefs that are blocking your growth. Shift from a “what’s wrong” attitude to “what’s right.” Build on strengths instead of studying weaknesses.
4. Create a clear, compelling vision for the organization that includes everyone’s part in it. Ensure that people see how their role contributes to the success of the company.
5. Commit to a strategic action plan. From your overall vision, extract specific, measurable goals. From your goals, set 90 day milestones and 30 day action plans. Ask, “What needs to happen this month in order for us to reach our goals and fulfill the vision for your business?
The old adage, “Plan your work and work your plan” remains good advice to this day.