Quality of Leadership Drives Employee Engagement

Strativity Group conducted eye-opening research titled, “National IMCO Employee Engagement Study,” which looked at the powerful impact that strong leadership can have on employee engagement and, in turn, brand loyalty.

Loyalty360 talked to Edward Murphy, Principal, Research | Measurements | Metrics, Strativity Group to learn more about this intriguing study.

What was the biggest takeaway from the study and why?

Murphy: There were several takeaways, and the biggest for me was:

The very low engagement among those in Education

The lack of inspirational leaders and leaders’ inability to communicate to employees

The fact the 21 percent of employees in the Education field are Actively Disengaged and 32 percent are Non-Engaged is alarming given the role Educators have shaping our future. How can we expect students to be engaged and want to learn when those directly involved are unengaged? The education field must focus on developing more passion and re-engaging those teachers who have become disengaged.

When we look at what drives engagement, we see that having an inspirational leader and having communication from leadership were at the top.  Inspiring your workforce and communicating to employees are changes that any organization can implement to lift engagement. Why aren’t companies doing this already?  That’s the interesting question.

What was the biggest surprise from the study?

Murphy: We read a lot about Millennials and their lack of passion and enthusiasm. So many organizations blame Millennials for lower engagement, but we found it’s really not a generational issue low engagement scores were found across all different age groups.
What are the main reasons for disengaged employees?

Murphy: Employees direct managers and company leaders are the primary reason for disengaged employees. Many leaders, and most managers do not know how to inspire and truly lead people, they tend to be focused on processes, cost reduction, and profits instead of the most valuable asset of an every organization–the people. This relationship between management and employees is one of the most overlooked, but it is a key component in the employee’s long-term engagement and success in their role. Most HR departments are policy enforcers, not talent developers.

Employee’s direct manager is the linchpin in the organization. He or she must help the employee realize their full potential. If this is not the case, the employee is likely to disengage or leave the organization.

Leaders must foster direct contact with every employee. Employees need to believe that the leadership team makes the right decisions for both them and customers. Leaders must demonstrate and live by the behaviors that correlate to the organization’s values as they set the example. Leadership must expend the effort and energy to ensure that employees are connected to the higher cause that the organization has defined for itself, they need to understand what it is, feel that they are part of the solution, and see that the leadership team demonstrate the right values and behaviors.

What can leadership go to spark employee engagement?

Murphy: Leadership must:

Clearly, communicate the strategy to all employees and how it will be achieved. Leaders should help employees understand their contribution and the role they play.

Foster direct contact between the leadership team and every employee. Employees need to believe that the leadership team makes the right decisions for both them and customers.

Ensure that leaders demonstrate and live by the behaviors that correlate to the organization’s values. Employees look to them as an example.

Create a cohesive atmosphere where employees feel that they are a valued part of the solution.

Create an environment that encourages employees to work as a team. Teamwork is not just within one’s department. Cross-functional cooperation is critical for the success of the organization.

Create an environment where the right employees will want to remain for the long-term.

What are the key benefits for effective employee engagement?

Murphy: The primary benefits of having engaged employees are:

There is a direct relationship between higher engagement and lower turnover

Engaged employees have up to an 87 percent lower turnover rate than their disengaged peers (Source: Corporate Leadership Council)

If employee engagement increased by 20 percent, turnover rates can drop by up to 18 percent (Source: Corporate Leadership Council)

Increased innovation

Higher productivity

Engaged employees work faster, harder and stronger

Less absenteeism (According to Gallup, Businesses with Highly Engaged employees realized 41 percent reduction in absenteeism)

Increased profitability 

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