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The Employee Engagement Mindset
THE SIX DRIVERS FOR TAPPING INTO THE HIDDEN POTENTIAL OF EVERYONE IN YOUR COMPANY
By TIM R. CLARK
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2012The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Who Owns Your Engagement?
"Life leaps like a geyser for those willing to drill through the rock of inertia".
In first grade she woke up in the morning, dressed in stretch pants and a bright paisley shirt, gave her hair a quick run-through with the comb, and then stood for inspection before her older siblings. On the way to school, she rolled down the hill, gathering up grass, leaves, and burrs. After dusting off, she walked into the classroom and found her desk. No one said anything until the report card came. "I always got an unsatisfactory mark for 'comes to school neat and clean,'" she points out. "It drove my mother crazy."
That's not a remarkable story until you learn that Lois Collins's parents were both blind. They knew people would cut their children slack if they didn't perform to a socially acceptable standard. There would always be an out if they needed it. But her parents emphatically rejected that idea. "They taught us just the opposite. We had no hired help at home. My parents lived very independent lives, so I learned that if Mom and Dad could go through life blind, what's my excuse?"
Today, Lois is a widely respected journalist and senior writer for the Deseret News, the leading daily newspaper in Salt Lake City, Utah. Over a 30-year career, she has experienced all of the turbulence and dislocation of the print journalism world. And like everyone else, she has her own set of real-world challenges, including a husband who is awaiting a liver transplant.
And yet Lois is an engagement outlier. Her patterns of commitment, performance, and adaptability are strikingly different from those of the vast majority of the population. Her work is of exceptional quality, and her productivity is staggering. In her midfifties, she outworks and outproduces cub reporters half her age. "Journalism is a calling," she says. "It's a privilege to tell other people's stories. I give voice to people who don't have voice."
In Lois's case, we suspect that some of her high engagement comes from her socialization. She developed a work ethic and learned self-reliance at a very young age. She also gained a mindset to find joy and gratitude in her work, some of which has grown out of the kind of work she does. "I cover people in crisis and poverty. I tell the stories of the abused and the disabled, and I recognize that I have a really good life."
The question is whether you can become highly engaged without the benefit of such defining experiences. Can you become like Lois without being Lois? That's the question. Dr. Seuss said, "Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple."
How to become highly engaged is such a question.
The Benevolent Organization
Imagine that you work for the most benevolent organization on earth—an organization that believes in and practices fanatical employee support. The organization has anointed you with a big title, a big office, and a big salary. It assigns people to clean your house, do your laundry, and file your tax returns. There are piano lessons for your kids, personal trainers and home decorators, a pet photo contest every year, unlimited spa treatments, extended family cruises, and ice cream socials. Not least, you have a great boss. In the history of the world, there has never been a more successful organization, and you are exquisitely blessed to be right in the middle of it.
So let's ask: Are you engaged? Are you passionately connected and actively participating in the organization and the work you do? Do you bring your best game to work every day?
Answer: even in these circumstances, you have only a 25 percent chance of being highly engaged.
The organization may lavish you with perks, but those perks don't hold the key to engagement. Feeding the pleasure center of the brain through extrinsic rewards doesn't engage a person and bring real, lasting fulfillment. At best, it creates security and short-term pleasure or hedonic well-being. This is a very different thing from true and sustained engagement.
Most employees are either bored or burned out. We know that because that's what they tell us in survey after survey. Most are disengaged. Even when organizations practice fanatical employee support, they still have huge numbers of disengaged employees. Why? That's what we wanted to know. But instead of asking disengaged employees why they're disengaged, we asked highly engaged employees why they're engaged.
We studied deeply motivated and committed employees across industries, continents, cultures, and demographics. We interviewed them and observed them in all sorts of situations, organizations, and environments. What is absolutely clear is that highly engaged employees think and behave differently. They have a different mindset. They may work in different organizations and do very different jobs, but there's a consistent theme among them: They take primary responsibility for their careers, their success, and their fulfillment. They own their own engagement. They are the driving force. With very few exceptions, they believe that the burden of employee engagement falls on their shoulders, not the organization's.
The highly engaged employees we studied seemed almost puzzled when we asked them why they feel this way. "What's the alternative?" they would ask in response. To rely on the organization, they said, is unrealistic. It might be nice to shift the burden to the organization, and certainly it has a support role to play, but to depend on the organization doesn't make any sense at all. The speed, complexity, and volatility of the twenty-first century make it utterly foolish. That's what they said—again and again.
What startled us was the consistency of this pattern. It cuts across culture, age, industry, gender, and any other demographic you may want to consider. The problem is this: many people don't seem to understand this principle, and we dare say that many do not believe it. In our research, two facts hit us right between the eyes. First, engagement levels are static. In the average organization, only 25 percent of employees are highly engaged. In many cases, engagement levels have actually fallen, and they certainly haven't increased, at least not in the aggregate. Many individuals and organizations have reached the point of diminishing returns; they can't seem to move the engagement needle any further. The second fact is that among employees there is an abundance of what we call an "engage-me mindset." Employees are waiting expectantly for a paternalistic organization to engage them.
We consider this supremely dangerous.
In most cases, the single biggest obstacle to employee engagement is the employee. Employees get in their own way by not taking charge of their professional lives. In the end, it may not matter what we'd like the answer to be to the question: "who owns your engagement?" A globalizing world has given us the answer, whether we like it or not. Tory Johnson of ABC News puts it this way: "If we learned one thing from the job market last year, it's that nobody's coming to take care of our careers. We can't wait for a big bailout, a massive economic turnaround, or some miracle to grow our paychecks. We're each responsible for taking charge and making things happen for ourselves."
As an employee, you have three choices: (1) Accept what you've been given. (2) Change what you've been given. (3) Leave what you've been given. We want to focus on the second option. If you feel underused and undervalued, you can do something about it. You may be tempted to hold the organization accountable for your engagement. If you still don't buy the argument that you're in charge of your own engagement, ask yourself: have you ever had true passion for something in life?
Most likely you can answer yes. So where did that passion come from? You get the point. Nobody can give you passion. Nobody can instill in you deep and rich and vibrant engagement. You have to do it. You should do it.
Engagement drives performance, both personally and organizationally. Torrents of data and reams of analysis have proven a direct relationship between the two. Engagement is the passion you have for what you're doing and the affection you have for the organization and its people. It's the comprehensive expression of your motivation and desire to contribute. Of course engagement levels vary. That's the problem. Some people are on fire. Others are frozen solid. Highly engaged people demonstrate focus, energy, and commitment. Disengaged people languish in complacency, indifference, and halfhearted effort. They think, feel, and act differently from truly engaged human beings. But that's not all. Engaged human beings deliver different results—to themselves and to their organizations.
Individuals who dive in and participate fully earn greater rewards and experience deeper personal and professional fulfillment. Show us a disengaged person, and we will show you lackluster performance, limited personal growth, and diminished rewards. Show us an engaged person, and it's just the opposite—high performance, accelerated personal growth, and inevitable success.
"Comparisons between people whose motivation is authentic (literally, self-authored or endorsed) and those who are merely externally controlled for an action typically reveal that the former, relative to the latter, have more interest, excitement, and confidence, which in turn is manifest both as enhanced performance, persistence, and creativity and as heightened vitality, self-esteem, and general well-being. This is so even when the people have the same level of perceived competency or self-efficacy for the activity."
Richard M. Ryan and Edward L. Deci, psychologists
There are two requirements for high engagement. First, you have to want to be engaged. There has to be a deep-seated desire in your heart and mind to participate, to be involved, and to make a difference. If the desire isn't there, no person or book can plant it within you. That desire is an intensely personal decision. If you have it, you're halfway there.
Second, you have to know how to achieve high engagement and sustain it. A lot of people want to be more engaged; they just don't know how to do it. They don't understand the principles and practices behind high engagement. This book can help you with the second requirement. In fact, that's what this book is all about. Our goal is to teach you how to own your own engagement from the inside out.
The Patron Saint of the Disengaged
The comic strip Dilbert is published in 2,000 newspapers, in 65 countries, and in 25 languages. The question is why. Why is it so popular? Why does it resonate with people around the globe? Why does it cut through cultural, social, political, and religious boundaries?
Scott Adams, the writer, has an amazing way of poking fun at organizational life. For many, Dilbert is the patron saint of disengaged employees. He's a jaded, sarcastic, cynical employee. Where does that cynicism come from? It comes from the fact that organizational life is often less than we expect and less than it should be. A lot of people find comfort in Dilbert because he gives voice to their frustrations and allows them to laugh and commiserate with a sympathizing, albeit imaginary colleague. We can laugh, but then what?
Research shows that organizations with highly engaged employees outperform rivals in operating income by 19 percent, net income by 14 percent, and earnings per share by 28 percent. And highly engaged employees outperform the moderately engaged by 23 percent and the disengaged by 28 percent. Why does this matter? Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, said, "There are only three measurements that tell you nearly everything you need to know about your organization's overall performance: employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and cash flow."
Highly engaged employees get results with energy, passion, and purpose. They engage with customers better, innovate faster, and execute more reliably. Indeed, the highly engaged represent the ultimate competitive weapon. They hold the key to the customer experience. While engagement may have been at one time a soft concept, today it's considered a hard business metric that changes the bottom line.
Why Should You Care?
If you've looked around lately, you'll notice that things aren't the same. The twenty-first century presents us with combinations of speed and complexity that we've never seen before. We call it the new normal because the old normal is gone forever. The old way of doing things is not coming back. For most of us, it has been painful. The consequences of the new normal are reaching down and having an impact not only on organizations, but on individual employees. It's testing our ability to stay engaged.
"Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind."
Seneca the Younger, Roman statesman
The fortunes of organizations rise and fall more quickly in the new normal. The average span of competitive advantage is shorter. You don't know what's coming next. Most organizations are doing their best to be competitive and take care of their employees, but they can't make promises. Who can promise job security? It's simply not something that's within the control of most organizations. Yet it's the highly engaged that have the best claim on job security. Not surprisingly, they are the ones who find the opportunities to grow, develop, and advance.
Outside In or Inside Out?
In spite of all that organizations have done to increase engagement over the last 10 years, and despite all they continue to do, engagement numbers haven't changed significantly around the world. There's a disengagement epidemic across the globe. The data consistently shows that only one in four employees is highly engaged. That's frightening. What about everyone else? They fall into three categories: (1) moderately engaged (just above neutral, meaning neither engaged nor disengaged), (2) disengaged, or (3) highly disengaged. The needle is stuck!
What's getting in the way? Part of the answer lies in understanding what drives engagement in the first place. Two primary types of factors drive engagement: extrinsic factors and intrinsic factors. An extrinsic factor is something that comes from the outside—meaning outside of you. It's something in the environment, something in the conditions or circumstances that surround you that influences you to become more engaged. For example, you may have a great boss, a nice office, or a new computer; the organization may be performing well; or perhaps you've been given a lot of training to do your job and a generous budget to accomplish your priorities. These are all extrinsic factors—things that come from outside. Extrinsic factors are important, and they do have an impact on engagement levels. They create engagement from the outside in.
"The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitude of mind."
Intrinsic factors, on the other hand, come from the inside. They are inherent and are not dependent on outside conditions or circumstances. They are based on what you do. They're based on human action rather than environmental conditions. We've all experienced the power of an intrinsic factor. Just think about the times at work when you felt high motivation or a sense of deep satisfaction. Perhaps you learned something new. Maybe you really delivered on a project. Maybe you overcame a challenge. Maybe you helped someone who needed your help. Maybe you really love the kind of work you're doing. When you notice that your attention and motivation are increasing as you are doing something, that's an indication that something is going on inside, that intrinsic factors are at work and your engagement level is rising. When you act based on intrinsic factors, you don't do it for material or social rewards, you do it for invisible emotional, intellectual, and moral rewards. When you're engaged, it shows. It shows in your concentration, your effort, and your emotion. You can't hide it. Intrinsic factors create engagement from the inside out.
Extrinsic factors drive engagement from the "outside in."
Intrinsic factors drive engagement from the "inside out."
Both extrinsic and intrinsic factors drive engagement (see Figure 1.1). It's not exclusively one or the other. Here's the point. In most cases, the organization controls most of the extrinsic factors, meaning the conditions in which you work. When it comes to intrinsic factors, it's the individual—it's you—who controls what goes on inside of you. Ultimately, you're the one who decides to be interested in something, to put your effort into something. You're the boss of your effort, your motivation, and your actions. You're in charge of this part of your engagement.
"If you're going to be in the room ... be in the room!"
Nigel Risner, British writer and speaker
So what do you do as an individual? What do you worry about? Answer: focus on intrinsic factors that drive engagement and let the organization worry about conditions. And guess what? That's exactly what highly engaged employees do.
How Are Highly Engaged Employees Different?
How do you learn engagement from someone who's disengaged? You don't. That's like trying to learn French from a Spanish teacher. People simply can't teach you what they don't know. So we decided that the key to understanding high engagement was to study the highly engaged. We studied 150 highly engaged employees in 13 different industries and 50 different organizations, from aerospace and healthcare to technology and media. Do they behave in consistent ways? The answer is a resounding yes! Here is what we found:
1. Highly engaged employees take primary responsibility for their own engagement. When surveyed, 99 percent of highly engaged employees report that they take personal and primary responsibility for their own engagement. It's a stunning and largely ignored fact. The highly engaged expect the organization to play a support role. The highly disengaged expect the organization to play a primary role. While most highly engaged employees embrace an employee-centered model of engagement (meaning "I own it; it's up to me; I'm responsible for my own engagement"), most disengaged employees follow an employer-centered model (meaning "It's my manager's or the organization's job to keep me engaged"). In sharp contrast, the highly engaged don't wait around for the organization to engage them. They take deliberate steps to engage themselves.
2. Highly engaged employees feel the least entitled. Highly engaged employees understand they must dynamically manage their employability on an ongoing basis. They are far less predisposed to worry about what the organization owes them. They believe that high performance speaks for itself and that it will be recognized in any setting.
It's rather stunning, but most of the highly engaged individuals we studied think the concept of a "secure job" is a silly concept. They look at others who believe in such a notion as foolhardy. It's not necessarily that we are going to become a world of temp workers, but a simple acknowledgment that no one and no organization has the power to grant true job security.
Excerpted from The Employee Engagement Mindset by TIM R. CLARK. Copyright © 2012 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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