What do you think contributes most to employee’s feeling both happier and more productive at the office? Here’s a hint: how about feeling truly taken care of, appreciated, and trusted by your employer?
According to a recent Harvard Business Review post, “More than 100 studies have affirmed the connection between employee engagement and performance, but the Towers Watson 2012 Global Workforce study – 32,000 employees across 30 countries – makes the most powerful, bottom line case for the connection between how we feel at work and how we perform.”
The recent Towers Watson study concludes that the traditional definition of engagement – the willingness to invest discretionary effort on the job – is “no longer sufficient to fuel top performance in a world of increasing demand,” says Tony Schwartz, CEO of The Energy Project – a firm that specializes in fueling a more engaged workforce. According to the study, to be successful today businesses need to establish a work environment that more fully energizes employees by promoting their physical, emotional and social well-being. “Many employers are pursuing a variety of wellness efforts, typically focused on giving incentives or penalties to people who embrace healthy behaviors like exercise, good diet or effective management or a chronic illness,” the report concludes. While these are important, to sustain that much needed energy, employers must go beyond these core programs and embrace the notion of workplace energy on a far broader plane.
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In a broader study of fifty global companies conducted by Towers Watson, they found that companies with low engagement scores had an average operating margin of just under 10 percent. Those with high “traditional” engagement fared slightly better with average operating margins of 14 percent. However, businesses with the highest “sustainable engagement” scores had an average one-year operating margin of a whopping 27 percent. “Forty percent of employees with low engagement scores said they were likely to leave their employers over the next two years, compared to 24 percent of traditionally engaged employees, and just 18 percent of employees with the highest ‘sustainable engagement’ scores,” says Schwarts. So what can employers do?
What this means is that organizations must create policies and practices that “make is possible for employers to better manage their workload, live more balanced lives and exercise greater autonomy around how, when, and where they get their work done.” Schwarts believes that establishing policies that are focused on flexibility and working remotely are key cornerstones to developing a more energized workforce. He is also a strong proponent of creating organization-wide boundaries around the length of meetings and the hours during which people are expected to respond to email.
The idea here is for leaders to start seeing themselves as energy officers. Energy is contagious and “The manager is at the heart of what we might think of as a personal employee ecosystem,” the Towers Watson study concludes, “shaping individual experience…day in and day out.” Among sustainable engaged employees, 74 percent in the study believed that senior leaders held a sincere interest in their well-being, compared to 44 percent of traditionally engaged employees, and only 18 percent of disengaged employees. “No single behavior more viscerally and reliably influences the quality of people’s energy than feeling valued and appreciated by their supervisor,” says Schwarts.
For individual employees, it’s important to take charge and responsibility for their experience and not fall into “victim mode.” “Employees willing to take more responsibility for how they manage and take care of themselves – regardless of the sort of organization and supervisor they work for – end up feeling better and performing better than those who see themselves as victims,” writes Schwarts.
Need some more ideas on how to reengage your workforce? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Check out this post on the engaged worker for some more great ideas on how to reengage your workforce.