Employee Engagement Crisis: What Leaders Can Do Right Now

Susan S Freeman Blog


This week I was privileged to assist a leadership team of a start-up company in an off-site. These folks work all over the country, and rarely have opportunities to engage with one another in the same room.  I enjoy these days immensely, mainly because facilitating a team of high-powered individuals is both challenging and rewarding.  I truly enjoy helping them become more cohesive, effective, and clear around the company’s purpose, including their roles and the necessary behaviors to accomplish this.

The participants in this week’s retreat were phenomenally engaged—so much so that the strategic conversations went way over the time I had allotted. In spite of this, one participant wrote “you led us to focus on real issues, starting with a relatively small “what can you improve in your behavior right now” topic and culminating in a difficult strategy discussion. It was rather enlightening in a sense that it gave us an opportunity to step back from a presumably set vision paradigm, and eventually come up with a much clearer message. “

This kind of work truly matters because organizational health is critical to producing results.  According to Patrick Lencioni in, The Advantage, “I’ve become absolutely convinced that the seminal difference between successful companies and mediocre or unsuccessful ones has little, if anything, to do with what they know or how smart they are; it has everything to do with how healthy they are.”

What I observe is that organizational health must be a priority.  It must be consciously developed.  It is an investment, not an expense.

American business has a real engagement crisis on its hands. 

The root of it is a lack of organizational health. The workplace is ailing.   According to a Tampa Bay Times article today, “the vast majority of U.S. workers are disengaged or indifferent. That workplace ennui comes at a price for U.S. productivity — economic output per person — a fundamental workforce measure that peaked in the 1950s and 1960s. Productivity growth has been declining since then, U.S. Labor Department data show, despite the rise of such remarkable technologies as the Internet, the laptop and the smartphone, all intended to help people work smarter and faster.”

Have a look at the reality of the employee engagement crisis in America:

  • 33% of U.S. workforce actively “engaged” — enthusiastic and committed — at work
  • 16% of U.S. workforce actively dis-engaged
  • 51% of workforce looking for new jobs or watching for openings
  • 15% of employees strongly agree their leaders make them enthusiastic about the future
  • 35% of workers who have changed jobs within the past three years
  • 60% of U.S. employees strongly agree that they know what is expected of them at work
  • 53% of workers say greater work-life balance is “very important” to them when considering whether to take a new job

Gallup CEO Jim Clifton stated “Business leaders must define and convey their vision more clearly — and rally employees around it — the report urges.   “Employees have little belief in their company’s leadership.”

How to fix a broken workplace and increase engagement?  The report suggests that businesses:

  • Cultivate leaders who communicate well and often and share the mission of the company.
  • Hold managers accountable not only for the bottom line but also for their efforts to train and develop workers, and to,
  • Offer feedback and coaching.
  • Make sure their employee goals are clear.
  • Provide the resources to help employees reach those goals
  • Offer workplace flexibility, whether it involves time or at-home options for employees to accomplish their tasks.

Leaders who successfully address the engagement, and hence performance crisis will invest in creating healthy organizations.  Reach out to outsiders who can facilitate real behavioral change.  Watch your engagement—and bottom line—increase.

We invite you to post your comments here.  For information on how I can help you create a healthy, engaged leadership team, contact me.

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