- Bridging the Gap: Improving the Emotional Connection to Work
“Engagement,” is the willingness of an employee to go the extra mile to help his or her company succeed. Employee engagement is golden. That’s the key finding of the Towers Perrin Global Workforce survey of 90,000 workers in 18 countries in 2007-2008. More recent smaller surveys showed similar findings that reinforce the importance and value of focusing on engagement.
Employee’s engagement is driven by emotions or a think/feel/act methodology. Overwork, anxiety and lack of challenge and recognition have colored the overall emotional connection of workers to their jobs.
Companies with the highest level of employee engagement achieve better financial results and are more successful in retaining their most valued employees than companies with lower levels of engagement.
To calculate employees’ level of engagement, the survey measured how emotionally connected employees were to their companies and jobs, what they thought about their work and the companies for whom they worked, and how they performed.
This think/feel/act methodology revealed:
• Engaged: only 21 percent of workers are fully engaged in their work. These workers scored very high in all three measures of engagement. Less than 5% of engaged workers were actively looking for another job.
• Enrolled: 41 percent are partly engaged. Their scores were high in the think and act categories, but were significantly lower in their emotional connection with work. The survey concludes that these enrolled workers tend to get their work done but they aren’t connected emotionally to it and thus aren’t going the “extra mile.”
• Disenchanted: 30 percent of workers scored significantly lower on all
three components of engagement, but dramatically lower on their emotional
connection to their work.
• Disengaged: 8 percent are completely disconnected from their work. More than a quarter of disengaged employees were looking for another job.
At Harmony, as we work with organizations in harnessing the power of their people we see and hear the gaps and the impact those gaps have on productivity and performance. To tap into the discretionary effort that employees have available you must connect with them on both the head and heart level…with heart having the most impact on engagement.
Bridging the Gap: Improving the Emotional Connection to Work
There is an engagement gap between what companies need in order to meet their goals, what workers give and companies’ effectiveness in channeling employee effort.
Here are some ways managers can bridge the gap between how workers feel and how managers perceive them to feel—and how to help workers plug into a more positive emotional connection to their jobs.
Communicate the benefits of engagement. Employees are eager to invest more of themselves to help the company succeed, but they want to understand how their efforts will benefit them. Developing skills and a career path are critical first steps.
Emotionally connect with, and inspire your workforce. The survey also found that more than half of the respondents felt that managers treated them as if they didn’t matter at all. Recognize the employees’ untapped energy and ambition, and then channel it in ways that yield real results. Showing that you care and value the employee is key.
Focus on ways to build self-esteem in your workers. Workers can feel intensely positive about their jobs from the self-esteem they get through feeling connected and competent in their work. While that ought to be obvious, the managers in the study predicted that this would matter little.
Do more to build in recognition in your workplace. Effective recognition is positive, immediate and specific about what is being praised. But many recognition programs fail to meet these tests, leading managers to underestimate the value of recognition to their workers.
The future isn’t as important as you think. Workers are concerned about the future, but not nearly as much as managers expected. Be careful not to telegraph too much emphasis on the future—in either direction.
Companies need to understand their workers as well as they do their customers, and then design a work environment that reflects that understanding.