Companies are not getting the best returns possible. They are leaving money on the table. But the problem is not with returns on financial capital—it’s human capital that’s left behind.
Specifically, the lack of employee engagement is resulting in huge productivity losses for businesses. Estimates go as high as $370 billion in lost profits annually in the United States. While many companies are relying primarily on annual employee engagement surveys to address the problem, results show more action is needed.
In my experience, a more comprehensive approach can deliver huge returns. Research supports what I have experienced personally—the key is to create the conditions for what I call viral engagement. It starts with the understanding that any employee can impact the engagement of every employee in a group.
Research has found that positive emotions spread from person to person in a work environment. One study by Yale researcher Sigal Barsade found that this spread of emotion is associated with improved cooperation, decreased conflict, and increased task performance in the workplace. Another study by James Fowler and Nicholas Christakis out of the University of California and Harvard, respectively, found that cooperation also spreads, even among people who are not acquainted. These researchers found that cooperation spreads not only from person to person, but from person to person to person to person—up to three degrees of separation. That’s an impressive cascade. I call that viral engagement.
Engaged employees feel great about giving their all at work. They are disciplined and creative in their chosen craft and team well with others. Their high level of satisfaction comes from working in an environment where they can connect what they do to who they are. I refer to these individuals as Chiefs.
Consider these 10 opportunities to create the conditions for improving employee engagement with the understanding that engagement is contagious and can start from anyone, anywhere in an organization.
Selection: Do you hire good team players and hold an expectation that every addition to your team can have an immediate impact on the engagement of current employees?
Education: Does your company invest in the soft skills that will enable your employees to be more effective in engaging others?
Communication: Do you reinforce verbal and written communication as equally important in engaging others?
Compensation: Could you pay a small team bonus for improving engagement scores?
Recognition: How could you recognize individuals and teams when new practices are adopted that are generated “bottoms up?”
Promotion: Do team members know that engagement success is part of the path to promotion?
Retention: When people do leave, do you look ask about engagement in exit interviews?
Performance management: Is engagement a part of performance management discussions?
Values: Could engagement language be added to define your organizations values?
Assessment: Do you assess for engagement skill sets?
When you understand that viral engagement is possible, you have the power to unleash a whole new paradigm in your organization. Are you ready for next-level growth? The opportunities discussed here will help you get there.