Why Engagement Happens In Employees’ Hearts, Not Their Minds

Posted on: April 28th, 2016 by bobmorris

WhyEngagement
Winning your employees over to stick with the company long term involves an array of factors—but first among those is love.

Here is a brief excerpt from an article by Mark C, Crowley for Fast Company magazine. To read the complete article, check out others, and obtain subscription information, please click here.

Photo: Flickr user le vent le cri]

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What are the real drivers of human engagement in the workplace?

What are those things that consistently inspire people to fully commit themselves in their jobs and to willingly scale mountains for their bosses and organizations?

For the past two-plus years, I’ve been singularly focused on answering these big questions and to boiling answers down to a true bottom-line. In the service of organizations everywhere, my singular mission has been to identify the few critical leadership practices that affect people so deeply that they become uncommonly loyal, committed, and productive.

And to distill all I’ve discovered down to just one word, what workers across the globe need in order to thrive and exceptionally perform in their jobs is love.

The use of the word “love” is, of course, a huge taboo in the context of business and management. But as you read on, you’ll soon see that the love I’m referring to has nothing to do with romance, sex, or religion.

The love I’m speaking of relates to the experience of positive emotions — the foundation of human motivation.

Why We Want More

We’ve long believed that a job and a paycheck provided sufficient motivation for people to remain fully committed at work. But as levels of engagement have fallen abysmally low all over the world, the evidence is irrefutably clear that people today want and need much more in exchange for their dedicated efforts. Here’s how we know:

For nearly three decades, Gallup Research and the Conference Board have been independently monitoring employee satisfaction and engagement in more than 100 countries. The lead scientists at both organizations personally shared with me all of their dominant findings.

I also visited the two organizations consistently recognized for being the best in the world at driving employee engagement. At software analytics firm, SAS, and at Google, I met with the executive leaders who created the enlightened systems that have routinely made their firms extreme outliers in creating workplace happiness — all the while producing uncommon shareholder returns.

And desiring the broadest possible insight into current views on workplace management, I interviewed the founder of the Great Place To Work Institute, Robert Levering, positive psychology author Shawn Achor, and many leadership luminaries including John Kotter, Ken Blanchard, Spencer Johnson, and Adam Grant.

Drawing upon all I learned, my conclusions as to what will have the greatest impact on reversing our worldwide engagement crisis come down to just a few profoundly important revelations. As you might imagine, many of these directly challenge traditional managerial thinking:

We hear a lot about employee perks and are led to believe the more extravagant they are, the better they are in stimulating performance. With the exception of health care and on-site daycare (which make people feel valued), few other perks significantly influence engagement.

While it used to be that people derived their greatest sense of happiness from time spent with family and hobbies, how satisfied workers feel in their jobs now determines their overall happiness with life. This monumental shift means that job fulfillment has become essential to people everywhere.

The decision to be engaged is made in worker’s hearts — not minds. We now know that feelings and emotions drive human behavior — frequently, how leaders and organizations make people feel in their jobs has the greatest impact on their performance by far.

For centuries, most people went to work to get a paycheck, in order to put a roof over their heads and food on their table. But as a driver of engagement, pay now ranks no higher than fifth in importance to people — in every industrialized country. What truly inspires worker engagement in the 21st century can best be described as “emotional currency.” Here’s what that means:

o Having a supervisor that cares about us, our well-being, and personal growth

Without exception, bosses predominantly concerned about their own needs create the lowest levels of employee engagement. Going forward, having an authentic advocacy for the development and success of others should be prerequisite for selection into all leadership roles.

o Doing work that we enjoy and have the talents to perform

Selecting people who display passion for the work they’ll be doing is perhaps the most important step toward building a highly engaged team. People can’t ever be fully engaged if their hearts aren’t in the work.

o Routinely feeling valued, appreciated, and having a deep belief that the work we do matters

It’s highly destructive to people to have them strive and achieve, and to then have those contributions go unrecognized. Any company focused exclusively on driving profits — without a compelling mission—will inherently neuter engagement.

o Having strong bonds with other people on the team, especially with our supervisors.

Feeling connected with and genuinely supported by others at work is a surprisingly significant driver of engagement and loyalty.

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Here is a direct link to the complete article.

Mark C. Crowley is a leadership consultant and speaker, and the author of Lead From The Heart: Transformational Leadership For The 21st Century. His mission is to fundamentally change how we lead and manage people in the workplace, and to intentionally make it far more supportive of human needs.

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