Most of the time, it’s business owners who come to us to help them improve their employee engagement – which really means improving the quality of life for their employees and themselves. The owners are aware that they could be doing better and are looking for an easy-to-use system that allows them to open up the kind of communication that reveals problems and offers solutions.

But what if you’re the employee? Perhaps your business owner or manager has asked you to look into employee engagement, or maybe you just think your boss could use the insights a good engagement program can provide.

Then your challenge becomes not only finding a good program but introducing it in a compelling way.

No, we’re not going to hand you a sales script – because this isn’t a pitch. This is a real opportunity to open up an important conversation that can change your company for the better.

Prerequisites of engagement

First, we’re going to take it as a given that your boss is engaged with your company and genuinely wants to foster an environment of teamwork and open, constructive communication. No engagement program will fix the kind of work environment that results from an owner who isn’t caring, or brave enough to hear the truth, or who is so far removed that you can’t pick him out in a crowd (our criteria for the business owners we work with are that they have to be Brave, Caring and Identifiable).

The other prerequisite for employee engagement is having a defined purpose. This is our philosophy, you won’t find it in other programs. But we believe that if you’re asking employees to bring their whole selves to work every day and do each job with passion and energy, they have to have a good reason why.

And that reason isn’t money.

Money is an okay motivator, but a purpose is better.

Stefan Wissenbach, our founder, likes to tell this story:

There’s an old story about a man passing by three men digging a ditch. He asked each man what he was doing.

The first man said, “What does it look like I’m doing? I’m digging a ditch!”

The second man said, “I’m earning twelve bucks an hour, that’s what I’m doing.”

The third man said, “I’m building a cathedral.

The difference in performance between employees who understand how their role fits into the organization’s Purpose and those who don’t is night and day. The first have context; the latter are just doing a job.

Not that you want to tell your boss you – or anyone else in the company – is “just doing a job.”

But you do want to talk about the importance of aligning everyone around a heartfelt, greater purpose.

After all, wouldn’t any founder be delighted to find his or her workforce as excited about the company as he/she is?

Learn more about the do’s and don’ts of a powerful Engaged Purpose.

Understanding the nuts and bolts of engagement (so you can explain them coherently)

Employee Engagement, because it’s a buzzword right now and is often misrepresented and misunderstood. So let’s begin with a definition.

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement is how passionate employees feel about their jobs, and how likely they are to put in discretionary effort into their work. It is not employee satisfaction – which is whether employees are happy at work. The two are related, but of the two, engagement is more important. You can be happy doing the bare minimum, but you can’t do the bare minimum and be engaged.

When employees are truly engaged, they understand how their roles contribute to the organization’s success, what that success means in the larger picture, and as a result, they become more animated, creative, positive, and productive.

But that’s not all. The ROI of engagement goes much further.

The real value of employee engagement

In dollars and cents, the ROI of engagement can be seen in:
• Increased productivity
• Decreased absenteeism
• Reduced turnover
• Money saved on onboarding costs

But the entire value of engagement is so much greater than the sum of those line items.

When employees feel appreciated by leadership and see their thoughts and contributions making real, positive change, they’re motivated to keep improving, contribute more, and work harder. That’s how increased productivity happens, but it’s also how solutions to problems and improvements to existing structures happen. Increased efficiency across the board and growth are practically inevitable.

And for leadership, there’s an additional benefit – they can relax.

An engaged workforce (or as we refer to it, an Engaged Organization) requires far less oversight, because when you have talented, intelligent people working towards a common purpose, leaders don’t have to take on the unwelcome roles of “police” or “babysitters.” They step into the roles of mentors, helping employees grow and do what they do best.

For founders, it can be an enormous weight off of their shoulders to know that their employees are committed to doing their best work. And, the founders don’t have to come up with all of the ideas for how to improve the company – that responsibility is spread out, taking advantage of the wealth of perspectives diverse employees provide.

How engagement programs work

But how can founders really know how committed their employees are? They can ask – and if they ask anonymously and relatively frequently through surveys, they’ll get a very accurate picture of just how engaged their employees are.

This is where Employee Engagement programs come in. They create a system of getting feedback on what is and isn’t working, and how engaged employees feel.

Each engagement program works a little differently

Many only send engagement surveys out once a year.

It’s not very accurate – most people can’t remember what they ate for lunch the previous week, much less an entire year’s worth of feeling engaged or not. At best, it provides a snapshot of how employees feel at one moment in time, which isn’t very helpful.

And many engagement companies only offer a survey service – they don’t help you understand the results of the survey, or help you plan how to address deficiencies. We treat our survey (which we send out quarterly – our studies have shown that’s the optimal time frame for the most accurate results) as just a piece of what we offer. It’s a measurement tool to allow you to track improvements over time and understand the impact your actions have, but real growth requires more than a survey.

We coach our clients on how to improve their scores.

Another big difference between our approach and other engagement platforms is that we really do insist that the business owners we work with are brave, caring, and identifiable. Because you can’t inspire with an online platform alone. Inspiration needs to be human, and it needs to come from the top.

Gallup’s State of the American Workplace says it best:

Make no mistake about it: Measurement does matter. But companies that base their engagement strategy on a survey or metrics-only solution can get caught up in a ‘rinse and repeat’ pattern that does nothing to improve their business. They focus on engagement periodically — usually around survey time. As a result, these organizations make false promises to employees, pledging change through intensive communication campaigns but providing little actual follow-through. – SOAW page 67

Our engagement program is designed to help our clients make steady, manageable improvements in their companies in the areas that impact their employees most.

Steps to use to talk to your boss about engagement:

  1. Define the impact employee engagement will have internally and on a personal level. Be prepared to share what it would mean for your team’s happiness, satisfaction, and productivity. Paint the picture of what your business could look like with an engaged team. Learn more about why employee engagement is so important.
  2. Do the math – Bosses speak in numbers. If you want to convince leadership to adopt *anything* you have to show them a realistic projection of the financial impact action or inaction will have. This sounds far more difficult than it is. There are so many resources – research, studies, reports, use cases – that show how employee engagement affects everything from retention to productivity and revenue. We’ll link to our favorites below.
  3. Estimate the ROI – with our handy ROI calculator to find out how much money engagement could save your business. We base our figures on statistics from the 2010 Gallup State of the Global Workplace Study.

Additional resources & statistics