I wrote this blog post a couple of years ago, however it is worth a second look as employee engagement continues to be one of the most important initiatives on any corporate agenda. Very simply, if you are not investing in employee engagement, then your organisation is likely to be underperforming versus your competitors.
So, why is it that employee engagement is now such a key topic and what has driven this change? Fundamentally, there have been two opposing trends that have splintered and broken the way that the traditional workplace operates. On the one hand, the customer is now in control with raised expectations of what they expect from a company, its brand and its offering. On the other hand, business has become ever more complex, with more data, processes, structure, regulation, communication, competition and reporting demands.
The employee is sitting in the middle. They are being asked to ensure that the customer receives the best possible experience every time they engage with the company, whilst they cope with all the increased complexity of actually getting anything done. This is even more critical for front-line employees.
The Gallup State of the Global Workforce survey 2017 indicates that 32% of working-age adults across 155 countries are employed full time for an employer. The percentage of these employees who are engaged at work — they are highly involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace — is just 15%. This implies a stunning amount of wasted potential, given that business units in the top quartile of Gallup’s global employee engagement database are 17% more productive and 21% more profitable than those in the bottom quartile.
“If you wish to establish mutually beneficial relationships with your customers — and to acquire market leadership — you must first win the hearts and minds of your employees.” David Newberry
This is new territory for executive management. So, here are a number of must-read books that will help inform what it takes to transform the modern workplace for the long-term benefit of the company.
Employee Engagement and the Failure of Leadership by Dr. David West. This book is a compendium of facts that really bring home the importance of employee engagement in the modern working environment. It highlights the extent to which the current workplace is broken and what needs to be done to fix it. This is not for the faint of heart, it will make you feel uncomfortable but more importantly it will fundamentally change the way you see, support and engage with your colleagues.
Fired Up or Burned Out by Michael Lee Stallard. This book introduces the concept of connection, between employees and their co-workers and employees and the company, as the glue that helps establish a highly positive and collaborative team-working environment. In a well-connected environment people are more open, they share more and they want to help their colleagues. This increased level of cooperation promotes creativity, innovation and enhanced productivity. This book helps you establish connection as a key corporate priority and to understand what needs to be done to bring it to life.
Built to Last by Jim Collins. Why a company exists and what it stands for are of critical importance to an employee. This is the key foundation for any relationship between an employee and the employer. There is no better book to explain and provide a framework for defining a company’s core purpose and corporate values than this one.
Turn the Ship Around by L. David Marquet. This book is about leadership and how to devolve power from a command and control approach to one where employees at all levels can embrace decision-making and take full responsibility for taking action when needed. It is about helping every employee know their true worth and potential and inspiring them to make the greatest contribution they can for the benefit of customers, the company and their colleagues alike.
Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson and Employees First, Customers Second by Vineet Nayar. These two books are very different in their approach but they are both focused on how to unlock the potential within your talent base through the way you configure and manage an organisation.
Companies are built on people and both these books provide valuable insights into how to create a corporate culture that creates a winning organisation through a series of small, achievable steps.
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. This may seem like a strange book to associate with employee engagement but the biggest challenge facing employees today is lack of time to fulfil their work duties. The problem is that there is an enormous amount of waste in people’s time due to too many coordination meetings, overflowing inboxes and significant need for rework. Teams need to adopt lean collaboration principles that promote alignment, sharing, cooperation, agility and speed. This book provides some great insights to the power of lean principles.
“When you don’t know what you believe, everything becomes an argument. Everything is debatable. But when you stand for something, decisions are obvious.” Jason Fried, Rework
Organisations need to recognise that employee engagement can no longer be ignored. Reading these books may seem like a significant investment in time and it is, but I would suggest that it is warranted. Employee engagement is a serious issue and it needs to be addressed. Evidence would suggest that organisations that treat employee engagement as a corporate priority will gain significant competitive advantage in the years ahead. That has to be a goal worth striving for.