There are many statistics on the level of disengagement in organisations, and it’s low; really low. According to Gallup, 70% of American workers are not engaged. Disengaged staff cost organisations, but also impact in more subtle ways:
“78% of engaged employees would recommend their company’s products or services, against 13% of the disengaged.”
“70% of engaged employees indicate they have a good understanding of how to meet customer needs; only 17% of non-engaged employees say the same.”
The impact of employee engagement is no longer questioned. Most large corporates run a regular survey to check the engagement temperature of their employees, with the intention of identifying the problems, overcoming them and hoping that the scores improve next time.
But why is it so low? Let’s take the example of a normal, successful company. A third of employees are looking for a new job, either internally or externally. Another tenth are on holiday or sick. And the remaining employees are incredibly busy covering, and fed up that nobody is noticing how busy they are. An extreme example, but it’s not too far away from the truth.
And then innovation is thrown into this mix. The CEO asks for ideas from employees to solve a problem; a strategic problem that must be solved. Employees don’t respond or participate as they “should” and the blame-game starts. “The process needs to improve”, “nobody understood the problem” or “people didn’t know it was happening.” So the methodology is changed, the topic is further explained and more desperate emails are sent asking for participation. But the process, topic or communication aren’t the problems.
The problem is employee engagement; actually employee disengagement. Innovation challenges demonstrate better than any survey the level of engagement. Low engagement means that people don’t care enough to do extra, and unfortunately, mentioning the word “innovation” doesn’t cause people to leap out of the seats with excitement.
I wish it did.
If people don’t care about the organisation, they are not going to care about solving the big hairy problems, because they don’t feel that the leaders care about them and their problems. If they don’t care about the organisation, why would they help to make it better?
Innovation is all about making the future better. It’s about people first and foremost. Therefore, if leaders want people in their organisations to have ideas and implement them, their people have to care about the result. They have to want better. They have to trust and believe that it is safe for them to make suggestions that are out of their comfort zone.
Is it all doom and gloom? Is there any hope? Well, yes, there are a number of steps that can be taken to improve the situation. There is not a short cut because ultimately it is a process of building trust. Trust takes a long time to build, and is very quickly lost.
Here are some steps to increase the innovation success and build stronger employee engagement: