Employee Engagement – The Rest of the Story!

10.31.13 | Posted in UnCommon Leadership

This past summer I was preparing to speak to a chapter of the
American Society of Training and Development when I came across just released data from the Gallup organization regarding the 2012 statistics on employee engagement. As I was reading the data and looking at a 13-year chart, something struck me as if I was watching the movie Ground Hog Day. The data was virtually the same as it had been the year before – and the 11 years before that. I began to ask some questions such as, 1) I wonder how much money companies have spent in the past 13 years trying to drive better employee engagement?, 2) If they, in fact, have spent billions of dollars, why hasn’t the needle moved in 13 years?, 3) Are we measuring the wrong data?, and 4) If we are, then what should we really be looking at?

A lot of bloggers write to “rant” about something they believe in or some social injustice or a political malfeasance. I’ve tried to create a positive blog where people find content that helps them become a better leader – an UnCommon Leader. Today is an exception. I’m going to rant!

It’s very clear to me what the issue is. Gallup has been leading this employee engagement charge since 2000 after the successful book by Marcus Buckingham First Break All The Rules in 1999. They have generated millions, if not billions of consulting dollars for themselves (rumor has it they don’t show up unless you’ve got $100k minimum budget) as well as the entire cottage industry of employee engagement consultants – each of them focused on creating measurement tools to find out how engaged or unengaged employees are in the companies and then peddling solution after solution to drive those numbers up. Problem is, the ladder is on the wrong wall.

There have been many polls that indicate why employees leave companies. Gallup and The Ken Blanchard Organization are two that come to mind, and they all indicate that the number one reason people leave is their boss. In the United States, it’s been reported that up to 80% of people don’t trust their boss. In addition, a survey done a few years ago by the website www.badbossology.com indicates 48% of people would fire their boss if they could, 29% would have their boss assessed by a workplace psychologist and 23% would send their boss for management training! Bosses stink at leading people…..and themselves!

Simple problem with a tough solution – companies need to INVEST in their leaders – not just promote them and say “Good luck, I hope you do well,” which is what happens so often. In the downturn, training and development budgets were slashed and I’m not sure if they’ve returned. Some companies gutted levels of management and are now struggling to create internal succession plans with the people still there.

Leaders are made not born. Leaders are developed. Companies have to step up and find ways to create UnCommon Leaders – leaders that realize that leadership is about relationships – about caring and creating bonds with the people they have been asked to lead. It requires looking inside to determine whom you are and where you are strong and where you need to grow. Then it requires the leader to invest in themselves and their people in the same way.

If every company were to create a focused, intentional leadership program for ALL levels of management, then we would see these numbers move over time to a more positive statement of employees engaged in their job. It starts with that one-to-one relationship – boss and employee.

We’re looking at the symptom of the problem – employee engagement – and not the source. The source is me and you!

What kind of leader are you? What has your company done to help you be a better leader? What are you doing to become an UnCommon Leader?

Onward & Upward!

Ed Chaffin

Leave a Reply