Nationwide CEO Steve Rasmussen was recently interviewed by businessjournal.gallup.com on employee engagement and said, "Engagement is a state of mind. People either are engaged or they're not. You can feel it. I can walk into any company, and I can tell you in 15 minutes whether people are engaged or not just by talking to them. Say hello to them -- you'll know how they feel."
We are at a critical time when it comes to employee engagement. Leaders are saying they need more from their employees--and employees are saying they need more from their leaders. Too many of us are disenchanted and demoralized. CEO leadership adviser Mike Myatt and author of Leadership Matters wrote " I can think of no time in modern history where employees feel less valued and trusted." Ouch! That stings; but it needs to be said. Her'es the full article at Forbes.com: Why Your Organization Suffers From Leadership Dysfunction - Forbes
Last week I talked to a director in a large company about employee engagement. "Linda" has worked hard to help her eight team members make their work "work better for them," as she put it. She's asked them what resources they need but don't have, what she needs to stop doing as a manager, what she needs to start doing and more.
She's asked them if they feel valued and when was the last time they felt challenged in a good way. Wow, what a manager! But guess what--she couldn't get a single one of them to open up, make suggestions or to even complain about anything. I bet you're not entirely surprised.
We don't need the latest polls and research to tell us that we have a long way to go with "employee engagement." When it comes to extraordinary customer service and employee happiness, how many companies come to mind? How about getting it right with either customer service or employee happiness, not necessarily both? The list gets a bit longer: Apple, Southwest Airlines, Walt Disney, Harley Davidson, Google, Starbucks. I'm sure you could add a few companies--but the list would still be short.
How can this be? Why aren't more companies thriving and why aren't more employees really into their work? And, what can we do?
For starters, let's ask the question, "Who owns employee engagement?" Whose "problem" is it and who is responsible for finding solutions? (Not who's to blame--but who is responsible.)
Is employee engagement the responsibility of "leadership" or is it the responsibility of "employees?" The answer is "Yes"--meaning, employee engagement is the responsibility of both parties. Let's take a look at both sides of the coin:
Employees: If you're not engaged at work, why not? And more importantly, what are you going to do about it? If you're not excited and fully invested in your work, it's your job to turn that around. Can your manager or company help with that. Yes, and hopefully they do--but in the end, how you feel about your work is up to you.
Leaders: When it comes to having engaged employees, you have to accept full responsibility for what you get or don't get. You (or someone above you) hired everyone on your team. You are responsible for leading, inspiring and coaching everyone on your team. In fact, ultimately, I believe our employee engagement problem is a leadership engagement problem in disguise. (The key word being, "ultimately," not "solely.")
Both Parties: It's time leaders stop blaming employees. It's time employees stop blaming leadership. We're in this together and we need to pull together. Who owns employee engagement? We all do.Whether we are in a group of three, three hundred or three thousand, we all own employee engagement--at least in theory. How about we own it for real?
"All for one and one for all."