Only one in three employees is highly engaged says Towers Watson in a 2012 study. Not only does that make sense to me, I fear the number may actually be even higher. Too many companies operate with just a few really, really bright and engaged people and a cast of other characters that are along for the ride.
This is why startups are such a powerful force in technology…people hand pick the early members of the team and their passion is what creates momentum. Unfortunately, as the company grows, it gets less choosy (because it can) and hires employees willing to take less risk but also not nearly as engaged. As companies grow, there are more places to ‘hide’.
How do you know?
First and foremost, you have to figure out if you have this problem. The odds are that you do. Fortunately, there’s new technology that actually makes it far easier than ever before…collaboration tools. You don’t have to look any further than enterprise social media to see who’s asking the questions and even more importantly, who’s take the time to answer the questions of their coworkers. It takes passion to step out of our own responsibilities and support others.
If you don’t have a social media tool that gives you this visibility, get one.
What can you do?
If you’ve gotten this far and realize you have this problem, you have a couple fo choices:
First, you can simply accept it and move on with the belief that one in three is enough to keep your business functioning. Maybe it is, but I’d suggest that’s a risky approach.
Secondly, you can begin to do things to improve the situation by understanding how you got to that place. The American Society of Employers offers this about the study’s results:
No one should be surprised at this conclusion — after all, workers have been doing more with less, and for less, for over half a decade. But they should be very concerned at the risk it suggests employers are taking: It may be that they have pushed engagement so close to the cliff that one more nudge would be enough to send it over. And if they have, the question becomes what it would take to pull it back from the precipice.
Knowing this, it could be time to take a look at how to reward people, and not necessarily financially, for doing more than the minimum. It might be time to be more honest about where and when you ask people to take on more without greater compensation. But more than anything, you need to reward those who find it in themselves to be highly engaged to set the example for the organization.