3 Tips for Employee EngagementOrganizations don’t achieve results, people do. Having said that, it’s hard to overstate the importance of the struggle that organizations around the globe are having with employee engagement. People power the results of any organization, but simply being hired and paid by a company no longer guarantees that staff will be “all in”. The days of blind job loyalty and a lifetime 1-company career track are long gone.

Global research indicates that 4 out of 10 employees are actively disengaged in their work, and Gallup research has shown that 3 out of 10 in the US specifically remain unengaged in their jobs. Just imagine the talent retention and turnover challenges faced by organizations who hire millenials, who often have more flexibility to change jobs, as well as the other generations when they are tempted by additional opportunities.

The challenge of any organization today, and for the foreseeable future ‘talent crunch’ time, will be identifying, hiring, and keeping engaged talent who contribute to superior innovation, customer engagement and profit growth. In short, these three factors must be embedded in the culture to ensure success: 1) Hire Right, 2) Coach Well, and 3) Fire the Wrong Fit.

1) Hire Right

Most people are passionate and engaged about something. Look for employees who have some sense of what they want.

Many years ago I recall having a discussion with Rick Camilleri, the then president of Sony Music Canada. At that time Celine Dion was their number one artist, and he shared a little bit about her background with me. From the time of her first live performance (aged 5) at her brother’s wedding, to her sold-out concerts today, her passion for what she does has always been clear.

Similarly, I just became aware of a hunter who turned down a chance at an NFL Superbowl ring to do something else he was more passionate about. Since I don’t watch TV, I only recently became aware of his show, which features a family of men with ZZ-Top style beards. My kids were watching it while we were away for a family Thanksgiving last year. Phil Robertson loved duck hunting so much that he turned down an opportunity to play pro football while his pal Terry Bradshaw went on to several Superbowls. Today, Robertson’s Duck Commander business and the show Duck Dynasty are the results of his passion for duck hunting.

There is an energy about passionate service people that inspires staff and customer engagement. You can often see the natural engagement that develops when a “people person” is presented with the opportunity to assist a customer in some way. Airline employees, hotel managers, Customer Service agents and retail team members – the best of these really thrive on serving customers. Hire people with this passion for your customer interface positions.

Conversely, hiring a “people person” for a position that requires analytical, detail-oriented work with little opportunity for human interaction will likely lead to their disengagement. An individual who is engaged by the detailed, analytical work may be more introverted and prefer fewer people interactions with customers, etc.

Hiring the right managers and staff who are self-engaged can make all the difference. These employees know what they want, and with some coaching can align their wants with the organization’s goals. During the interviewing process, use good discovery questions, i.e., “What do you like about your current role/job? What are you doing when you feel most engaged? What two things would you change about your current job?”

2) Coach Well

Engagement Postcard3

First, recognize that unengaged managers will not produce sustainable engagement in their staff. Make sure you hire managers who are passionate about coaching and engaging their staff in order to produce superior results. Studies show that people are more likely to quit their manager than quit the job. Once an organization has hired the right staff, ongoing coaching will be required in order to sustain their engagement for high-performance results. Organizations with good internal coaching support had 39.3% better engagement than those with weak support (see Bersin by Deloitte).

Maintenance is key; while staff may be well-engaged for a period of time, they will often need to be coached to grow in new skill areas or other positions in the organization to maintain their engagement. For example, you may observe that those with a propensity for intellectual/theoretical growth and discovery may require new opportunities once they have mastered their current challenges. In a sales role this could mean they may want to be challenged with developing to handle larger, more complex accounts. With software engineers they may be ready to take on different projects. A good coach-manager seeks to understand their team members’ unique engagement factors, and looks for opportunities to align them with departmental/organizational needs. This supports superior knowledge retention within the organization. Losing good talent is costly.

3) Coach Out – Overcome ‘Firing Fear’ and Fire the Wrong Fit

Sometimes we may make a “wrong hire” or, with the velocity of change, yesterday’s top performers may no longer be making the grade. Managers who retain underperforming, unengaged staff will be seen to be underperforming themselves, and thus part of the overall problem. If you are clear on expectations throughout several coaching attempts and performance has not improved, weed out those who aren’t succeeding in the position. As Paul Alofs indicates in his book Passion Capitol, it’s important to remove the weeds before they choke out the good growth in your organization. You don’t have to channel Donald Trump (“You’re fired!”), just think of it as doing them the service of “coaching them to be successful somewhere else.”

If you’re in management, here’s a worthwhile exercise in zero-based thinking that I learned from Brian Tracy. Compile a list of your direct reports, ask yourself this question about each one, and record your answers. “Would I re-hire this person today, knowing what I know now?”

Grow a culture of passionately engaged teams, weeding and pruning with care. Hire right, coach well, and fire as needed.