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We’re just going to talk about what is employee engagement, what is the definition of employee engagement?
Let’s start with what it’s not. See, a lot of people think employee engagement is the same as employee satisfaction, but satisfaction doesn’t raise the bar high enough. See, I can be satisfied as I clock into work at nine and satisfied as I take my breaks and lunch and clock out at five o’clock. I’m satisfied and I do what is asked of me. More importantly, I’m satisfied but I’ll take that executive recruiter phone call that says, “Kevin, are you interested in that job opening from the competitor across the street?” “Ah, I’m pretty satisfied here, actually.” “I can get you a ten percent raise.” “Oh, well, okay, I’ll take that job interview.”
Satisfaction just doesn’t set the bar high enough. Others will say, oh, what it’s really about is happiness. We’re trying to create happy workers, a happy workplace. I’m not against happiness. I hope everybody is happy, but just because you’re happy doesn’t mean you’re working on behalf of the organization. I’ve got two teenage daughters who I had to take to the mall to go clothes shopping recently, every parent’s worst nightmare. We went into one of these trendy teen clothing stores with the cool-looking young people working everywhere and the music blasting through the speakers.
I noticed, we walked in, the workers seemed pretty happy, looking down at their smartphones, but nobody greeted me as we came in the door. They were laughing at one point in the corner, all talking with each other. Not once did they come over and ask me if we were finding everything we needed. When we were checking out, the young woman behind the cash register, she was happily bopping her head to the beats blasting through the speakers, but she didn’t try to up-sell me. She didn’t offer me the company credit card. The workers there, I really noticed it right away. They sure seemed happy at work. They seemed like they were having a fun, good time, but they weren’t necessarily doing the behaviors or performing the way their company leadership probably wanted them to.
If engagement isn’t satisfaction and it isn’t happy, what is it? Basically, employee engagement is the emotional commitment that we have to our organization and the organization’s goals. When we’re engaged, when we’re emotionally committed, it means we’re going to give discretionary effort. We’re going to go the extra mile. That’s the secret sauce. That’s why engagement is so important and so powerful. When we are engaged, we give discretionary effort.
That means if you have an engaged salesperson, she’s going to sell just as hard on a Friday afternoon as she does on a Monday afternoon. If you have an engaged customer service professional, he’s going to be just as patient with that irate customer at 4:59 at the end of the shift as he would be at 9:30 in the morning. If you have engaged factory workers, they’re productivity is going to be higher, the quality is going to be higher, fewer defects and mistakes, and most importantly, they’re going to get hurt less often. Your safety record is going to improve as people are more mindful and aware. Discretionary effort leads to better business results no matter what your job role or responsibility in an organization.
Now this is a shame, because the C-level executives, they would care more about engagement if they understood the differences. What they care about, the C-level executives, they really care about investor returns. They care about their stock price.
Employee engagement is the lever that can move that needle. I call it the engagement profit chain. Engaged employees give discretionary effort. They’re going to sell harder. The service is going to be better. Productivity is going to be higher. That means customers are going to be happier. The more satisfied your customers are, the more they’re going to buy and the more they’re going to refer you. As sales go up, as profits go up, inevitably your stock price is going to go up Shareholder returns are going to go up. Employee engagement, so-called soft stuff leads to a hard ROI.
Several years ago, the Kenexa Research Institute did a study and they found that companies with engaged employees, their stock price was five times higher than companies with disengaged employees, over a five-year time period.
I hope that you will help me to spread the gospel of engagement, and it starts with making sure that everybody is on the same page with what engagement really is. I invite you to just forward this video to friends and colleagues, get us all on the same page.