What is Employee Engagement?

You can’t buy a bucket of engagement, but you know it when you see it.

Here’s a great example. There’s a brand new tea shop that opened up a mile away from my house. But when we walked in for the first time, my friend and I, there was this immense wall of different types of teas, all in little cubbies and boxes and things, and it was very confusing and overwhelming. It was especially confusing for someone like me who doesn’t know much about tea. The salesperson came up to me and slowly she walked me through it, answering my questions. Partway through answering all my questions, she realized that I didn’t know what I was talking about and didn’t have a clue which tea to get. She then asked me a series of questions to guide me along in my decision-making process, showing me the layout and where the caffeinated and non-caffeinated teas were. She was a little low-key, but that tone was just perfect for the type of conversation that I wanted to have. By the end of our conversation, I had purchased a fair amount of product.

If this salesperson had just sat by the cash register when we walked in – which she could have easily done – I would have bought nothing. I would have walked right back out of the door, because the store was overwhelming. Because of the way she handled me and my friend, I not only bought a lot of product, but I also became a pretty loyal customer.

That’s where an engaged employee shows up. That’s where an engaged employee drives value. Wherever a person sits in an organization that has to provide a service to others, internally or externally, that’s where engagement will show up.

As a business owner, or someone advising businesses, why would you care about having an engaged employee? For two basic reasons:

First of all, as seen in my example, engagement increases the top line. It improves revenue. There is an employee-customer-profit chain: A study done at Sears found that if you improved employee engagement, customer service improves, resulting in a measureable increase in revenue at the end of 90 days.

But even more importantly, it drops your bottom line. It reduces the expenses of turnover and sick days. It eliminates presenteeism, where people are just there to collect a paycheck. Gallup last spring released a study saying that 70 percent of the American workforce was un-engaged or actively disengaged. Only 30 percent of the workforce was considered engaged. And what is even scarier was that only 25 percent of those who considered themselves senior leadership were considered engaged. That’s what’s scary when thinking about American business – how much potential is squandered because of lack of engagement.

But that’s engagement: It’s a lagging indicator that shows us a glimpse what is already happening in the organization. In our next blog post, I will look at how an organization’s culture can create that engagement among the staff.

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