Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Employee Engagement Low -- No Surprise To Most

I read the results of another study today that said that levels of employee engagement are low. Do the authors expect their readers to be surprised? While there are notable exceptions out there, most companies do not appear to value individual employees. And, from my vantage point, the productivity of those disengaged employees is not particularly high.

Once upon a time in a faraway land called the United States of the 1960s, things looked more like this:

  • You worked for a company. If you had an hourly-paid job, you worked 40 hours per week and sometimes a little more. If you had a salary-paid job, you probably worked 45-50 hours per week.
  • If you were over the age of 30, this was likely the same company you had worked for when you were 25.
  • You may have had a manager who was asked to manage people. His manager title was not there to be a smokescreen.
  • You didn't get a wide variety of employee benefits. In fact, what you often did get was some vacation time, some sick time, some employer-paid health care, and a pension or profit-sharing plan.
  • If you did a good job, you got an annual pay raise that exceeded the increase in the cost of living.
  • Some day, you would retire from that same company and live a happy retirement.
  • You didn't spend your entire working lifetime worrying about when you would get laid off and how you would ever be able to retire.
Things sure have changed. In many respects, they are better. But, in some key respects, they are not. When employee engagement gets too low, the quality of goods and services declines. You know what, the successful companies understand this.

I spoke a couple of weeks ago to someone in an account management/sales role at a large consulting firm. They lamented to me that they hated their job because they were only going to be compensated well if they mis-served their clients. I was curious about this and pressed for an explanation. What I heard was a bit bothersome. Their firm had about 20 new services. The person I was talking to said that nobody had explained any of these new services to them. But, their incentive payout was not going to be at target (or higher) unless they could sell at least 5 of these new services to each of their clients. It didn't matter if the clients needed them or even if they were good for the clients. It didn't matter that they might be expanding the depth of those client relationships in other ways. It didn't matter if trying to sell those services aggravated this person's good clients.

So, what did this person tell me. They are looking for a new job. Until they have one, they are just going through the motions. Their clients now really dislike this consulting firm that they have worked with for many years.

Look what can happen when you have employees with all-time low levels of engagement. Think about it.

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