Nearly 10 years ago when Marcus Buckingham first burst upon the employee engagement scene as a consultant at Gallup, he announced an important finding:
“There is more engagement level variation within companies, than between companies.”
This fact has largely been forgotten as leaders, consultants, and practitioners have focused more on measuring against industry benchmarks than on practical ways to create an engaging, high-performing work environment.
What Gallup found that bears repeating is that within any organization there are tremendous differences in the way people are experiencing their work environment. Some units in any organization will rank as best-in-class examples of high engagement, while other units within the same organization will rank among the lowest.
While identifying an engagement score at an organizational level is a good place to start, it is important to go beyond that initial number and look at what is happening within the organization at a department and individual level. That is where the richness and opportunity for change will be found. A systemic approach has a lot of merit for large organizational issues, but do not let that blind you to everything that can be accomplished at a department and individual level.
Systemically—senior leaders should focus on the areas that must be addressed organization-wide. These will usually be issues related to fairness (such as compensation and benefits) or growth (job opportunities and career advancement). What can be done at an organizational level to make sure that the company is treating employees fairly in both of these key areas?
Department level—unit leaders and managers should look at how they are implementing organizational objectives within their separate units. What type of sub-culture is being created? Also what can be done at a local level to connect employees to meaningful work, creating a collaborative work environment, or providing feedback and recognition?
Individual level—individual employees should look at their current work environment and ask, “To what degree am I engaged at work?” “What would create a more engaging work environment for me?” (For eight key components check out Employee Passion: The New Rules of Engagement.)
Everyone within an organization has a role in creating a high-performing, passionate work environment. Senior leaders, mid-level managers, and front line supervisors shouldn’t get caught in the trap of averages. Instead, think at a more local level when it comes to engagement. People are all experiencing the organization uniquely. Find out what that individual experience is and how you can help. And for senior leaders, check out Marcus Buckingham’s original piece on this concept from Fast Company —and be sure to check the date of publication. I think you’ll see that we might have overlooked something important.