Employee Engagement Strategies: Part 2 – Igniting Purpose to Fuel Engagement
05/18/2020

Corry
Robertson

Employees in office arms up and happy

Employee Engagement Strategies: Part 2 – Igniting Purpose to fuel Engagement

According to Gallup, 87 percent of workers worldwide are either not engaged or actively disengaged (70 percent in the US, 83 percent in the U.K. and 84 percent in Canada). That means that out of 10 of your employees, only 1 or 2 are actively engaged in their job.  How do you think that affects your bottom line?

The good news is that improving the employee engagement statistics at your company doesn’t need to involve raises, bonuses, privileges and material incentives. It does require that you do some soul searching, communicating and often making personal and organizational changes.   

And why is that? Well one major reason why employee engagement is so low is because many of those disengaged workers lack a sense of purpose.

Raises and bonuses don’t create engagement

Your purpose is the reason why you do something, but many tech leaders buy into the belief that the ‘purpose’ of their employees is a quest to reach greater and greater heights of money and status.  Common logic tells us that workers are intrinsically driven to achieve a high level of income and status in order to make them feel successful.  

We often believe that the feeling of success will fuel higher and higher levels of engagement. This leads to employers generously allocating massive incentives that include raises, bonuses, prizes, gorgeous offices, expensive privileges and promotions that come with impressive titles.  

Most employers notice that the positive effect that these have on engagement is short-lived.  Rewarding with money and status actually buys into the perpetual downward spiral of disengagement, underperformance, or worse, failing companies.

The first steps to an engaged workplace  

In order to create purpose and engagement, you first need to ensure you have the basics in place. To quiet the demands for more money, better benefits, or improved working conditions you must deliver on the following requirements:

  • Fair pay and reasonable benefits according to industry and geographical standards
  • Fair, safe and reasonably comfortable working conditions that respect the physical, emotional and mental health of the entire workforce

Once the employees know that those criteria are securely in place, the demands for more money and better conditions lessen or come off the table. Now you are ready to establish a sense of purpose and ignite engagement.

If money and status don’t ignite a sense of purpose, what does?

Like Aaron Hurst said in his book The Purpose Economy, you won’t find your purpose by meditating on a mountain top!  Purpose in a workplace setting means employees who:

  • Feel a positive sense of connection to each other throughout the ranks.
  • Know their work contributes to the goals of the organization.
  • Feel a part of the greater good that their company is in service to.
  • Are challenged, learning, and growing.
  • See themselves getting better, smarter, and/or stronger.

What is the ROI of igniting purpose in your workforce?

Is it worth it to you to embark on the journey of igniting engagement or should you accept the principle that most of the success of your company is driven by a mere handful of people? Other research reported from Gallup may help you decide.  Organizations with high employee engagement experience:

48 percent fewer staff safety incidents.
37 percent lower absenteeism.
28 percent less theft (employees stealing from the company).
25 percent to 65 percent lower turnover.
22 percent higher profitability.
21 percent higher productivity.
10 percent higher customer engagement.

The benefits of high engagement have been reported for several years.  For example, research published by Blessing White revealed that high engagement companies had total shareholder returns that were 19% higher than average while the low engagement firms fell 44% below average. That is a difference of 63%. 

How do you ignite purpose in your employees?

Now that we understand that we need (and want!) to ignite purpose in our employees, the question becomes – how do we make that happen?

The answer lies in leadership culture and development. Leaders can and must create a spirited workplace, and inspire themselves and their workforces in order to create purpose and ultimately engagement.

The next installment in this series will explore how leaders play a key role in employee engagement and how leadership development and training can help. 

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This article is part of a series on Employee Engagement.  

You can read more here:

Employee Engagement Strategies:  Part 1 – Understanding The Zones of Engagement

Employee Engagement Strategies: Part 2 – Igniting Purpose to Fuel Engagement

Employee Engagement Strategies:  Part 3  – How Leaders Drive Results

Employee Engagement Strategies: Part 4 – Coaching Cultures and Engagement

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Author:  Corry Robertson

Sought-after tech industry culture expert, Corry Robertson has been helping leaders turbocharge employee retention and performance for over 20 years.

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