What is employee engagement and why is it nirvana?

Employee engagement–you know it when you see it and when you don’t. Employee engagement is the ongoing discretionary effort an employee makes so they are positively advancing their organization. It’s about going the extra mile.

Employee engagement is nirvana for organizations because when it improves so does the customer experience, productivity, and revenue. Also, when it goes up then costs, absenteeism, turnover, defects, and accidents go down.

Financial benefits of employee engagement

Extensive research shows a compelling positive correlation between the level of engagement and organizational outcomes. According to Gallup, organizations in the top quartile of employee engagement out earn their competitive peers by 22-28%. Similar results by other researchers indicate that high-engagement companies had a 19% increase in operating income, a 13% increase in net income, and a 27% increase in earnings per share*.

What has been tried?

Over the past 25 years not only has employee engagement NOT improved, it has actually declined, according to Gallup. Today, the typical company has less than 30% of employees doing anything more than the minimum required to get by.

Our hunger to engage people creates an unrelenting appetite for anything that might help. We hope that Balanced Scorecard, Lean, Six Sigma, Kaizen, and the whole world of process improvement will transform engagement. Or, maybe we just need to emulate the “Good to Great” companies, move past the “Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” or practice “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and then our employees will be more engaged.

Unfortunately, programs and tools like these do NOT transform employee engagement. They all support the goal of increasing engagement. Yet, supporting employee engagement is not creating transformation.

Take Lean as an example. You can engage employees in a project to take out process waste. But projects of this nature are almost always special sanctuaries where the over-riding norms of the organization are temporarily set aside. What that means is the improvement effort is a special event during which employees actually have a voice and are highly engaged.

For these reasons, there is no doubt that Lean is a good thing. But the problem is that we hope that by just repeating these projects we will transform the underlying behaviors, expectations and routines of the entire organization and will result in a highly engaged workforce. It’s like remodeling a 1,200 square foot tract home one room at a time and hoping when you are done you have a 8,000 square foot mansion. Repeating a good practice, no matter how much we hope it will, cannot transform an organization. As put Einstein put it, “In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.”

How the NOW Management System® increases employee engagement

In reality, employee engagement is driven by the underlying system of management, the logic that organizes and runs the business. That logic is often unseen and unconscious, and it is that logic which creates organizational culture and behaviors.

Clients who install the NOW Management System® experience a 16-21% improvement in employee engagement in as little as 6 months. One client even achieved these results during a company-wide hiring and wage freeze for the prior 9 months. As one CEO says, “By implementing the Mass Ingenuity management system we have achieved across-the-board results beyond anything we had imagined.”

*Peter Crush, “Employee Engagement ROI: Rules of Engagement”