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According to Gallup polls published last year, 70% of employees report not feeling engaged with their work, a percentage that hasn’t improved in several years. This strikes me as alarming, and something that leaders should be very concerned about. Disengaged employees represent an enormous waste of time, effort and resources.
Fully engaged employees are invested, enthusiastic and inspired by their work. They show up every day because they want to be there and are intrinsically motivated by personal and collective success. They frequently go above and beyond because they care deeply about the future of their organization and know that they play a key role.
Without a deeply engaged staff, it is extremely challenging to create sustainable growth.
After all, it’s difficult to rally people towards success if they simply don’t care.
Obviously, engagement is crucial to performance, productivity and profitability. So why do so many organizations struggle with its achievement? Reflecting on this question, I wonder if those of us in the Credit Union Industry, and other more cooperative work environments, might hold some answers.
Gallup describes highly engaged employees as people who “work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company. They drive innovation and move the organization forward.” In my experience, most people who choose the Credit Union industry as their career choice, do so because they are passionate about the movement itself. In addition, collaborative, cooperative workplace environments tend to cultivate a greater sense of community almost by necessity – another factor that impacts the level of engagement.
While passion, commitment and cooperation certainly go a long way towards creating a culture of full engagement, there are other important factors for leaders to consider.
#1. Decide what to measure and measure it consistently.
Knowing that your staff isn’t fully engaged at work isn’t as useful as understanding how much, how consistently and why. Employee surveys, exit interview data and new employee interviews are a few ways to gather information. But, knowing what to measure is just as important as incorporating measurement into organizational systems. Employee engagement is not the same thing as “employee happiness” or “employee satisfaction”. Someone might report that they are happy at work, or satisfied with their job, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are working hard or putting in any extra effort.
True engagement means that staff members are emotionally committed to the growth and success of the organization. It means that they care about their work, their coworkers and their members enough to work hard and go the extra mile. The metrics most useful to gauging engagement will reflect these, more specific qualities, and leave the broad generic questions out of the equation.
Another option is to consistently look for pockets of high-performance and try to identify contributing factors. The most important thing is to remember is that it’s never enough to measure anything once. Consistent data is key to not only gauging the present, but improving the future.
#2. Recognize employee engagement as a vital business imperative.
There is never a time when employee engagement is not important. If leaders truly believe that their staff is the organization’s greatest asset, then their care and support are always a top priority. As leaders, we must do all we can to get to know our people, recognize them as individuals, and work to leverage their personal talents, strengths, and motivators to further key business objectives. This might mean anything from promotional opportunities to training and educational options to allowing for needed time off. The important thing is that staff are able to connect their personal drivers and talents with the overall success of the organization, creating a greater sense of ownership and purpose within day to day tasks.
#3. Engagement isn’t only a factor for current employees. It’s vital to the hiring process.
Finding the right person for a job is more than assembling a list of tasks and finding someone with the requisite skills and experience. Every position created within an organization is either important or should be eliminated. So, before hiring for any position, we should make sure we are clear about why the position is vital to the success of the organization, and then determine the responsibilities required to accomplish that purpose. These benchmarks include necessary skills and experience, of course. But, they also include behavioral style, strengths, talents, and motivators. The more we can connect a candidate’s strengths and abilities to the purpose behind a position, the greater their chances for engagement and success.
Regardless of whether your Credit Union is large or small, its overall success at any given point can most likely be traced to how well your employees are working to achieve goals and serve members. It’s important for leaders to be aware of the level of engagement, understand the reasons behind a lack of full engagement, and do what it takes to eliminate those reasons.
Like many cultural factors, staff engagement can be difficult to achieve and easy to let slip. And yet, I find myself returning to my earlier inquiry: Is full engagement more likely within collaborative, cooperative environments? What do you think?