Iraq, Summer 2003
“Three. Two. One. Execute. Execute. Execute.” called our lead breacher over the radio.
Glass from every window in all three fourteen-story apartment towers shattered flying across the open courtyard. Each man on the team felt the concussive blast as if they got kicked in the chest by a horse. We had divided the platoon into two small teams performing simultaneous explosive breach entries on two enemy targets in the complex. Eleven minutes later, we had snatched the bad guys from their beds and were headed back to base.
Without the engagement of every person on the team, missions like this fail.
Fast forward many years. I learned much more about the importance of participation and engagement as an entrepreneur and business leader.
Despite the plethora of tools, resources and research currently available that focus on employee engagement, according to global Gallop research, only 15% of the workforce can be defined as engaged. And while this type of research is eye-opening, it doesn’t do much for today’s workforce or organizational leaders in terms of improvement.
In one of my companies, we used various survey-based tools and feedback mechanisms to measure engagement and introduce new strategies and tactics for aligning the team in our mission narrative, but still struggled to see consistent upward trajectory in engagement. And this became even more problematic when rolling out significant transformation efforts.
Without the majority of the workforce being aligned, engaged and executing towards the same goals, successful transformation becomes an almost insurmountable task. The problem is that we often charge into our change battle and “run to our death” (as we say in the Navy SEAL teams) while skipping key foundational pieces of the change mission, such as engagement and the impact culture and sentiment have on transformation.
In the SEAL Teams, engagement is not a human resources initiative – it is part of our culture. We are all-in, all the time. It’s how we do business. And not surprisingly, the best business organizations operate in a similar manner. According to more Gallop research, companies with high levels of engagement experience 17 percent greater productivity and 20 percent higher profitability. Seems obvious, right?
So, why is it so difficult to consistently engage the team? It falls into the “simple but not easy” category.
Let’s first look at the three key areas that need to be measured. As the saying goes – anything important must be managed and measured.
Managers need to look at engagement as a hierarchical structure, starting with basic needs and moving towards personal and professional growth – all of which impact an employee’s ability to help drive change.
Measuring Employee Engagement
When an employee can make the following statements with confidence, they are more likely to be engaged.
- I know what is expected of me in this role.
- I have the training and resources to exel at my job.
- I receive both recognition and constructive guidance regularly.
- My manager cares about me as a person.
- I believe my fellow team members are engaged and want to do great work.
- I am clear on the mission and purpose of this organization and know how my work impacts mission success.
- I feel totally integrated into the team and that we all have a shared sense of purpose.
- This past year, I have been given many opportunities to learn and grow, both professionally and personally.
- My manager regularly discusses my performance and progress with me and asks if there is anything else she can do to make my job easier.
- I am clear on the milestones necessary for upward or even lateral mobility.
When employees feel they can’t make these statements in confidence, and provide feedback on where they need more support to be fully engaged, its time for action. Again, simple in theory, but not always easy to execute.
When the right tools are in place – and actually being used – and managers make engagement a managerial priority, the team is more likely to thrive and drive mission success.
This article was written by Brent Gleeson from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.