Imagine this scenario. You love your job. It gives you the opportunity to do meaningful work, you love the culture, and your team is the best. But lately there have been some circumstances that left you feeling less than “engaged.” Maybe it has been too long since you had a relaxing vacation and you are feeling burnt out. Maybe you were just assigned a new supervisor, and while you are sure it will end up being a good relationship, it’s a lot of work to learn new expectations, ways of communicating, etc. Or maybe you had a great colleague leave the organization (who, perhaps, served as your confidant or made work more “fun”). In any of these situations, it’s not that the building blocks of engagement aren’t in place, but there are work-based or personal events having a temporary impact on your feelings of enthusiasm, confidence, and commitment.
At Newmeasures, we are focused on helping organizations understand the key drivers of engagement – your supervisor, the culture, your team…all of these have a critical impact on engagement. However, we also know that there are factors beyond traditional drivers that can have an impact as well – events in both our professional and personal lives (like the ones described above), can also influence our enthusiasm and commitment to our work. To better understand the events that have the biggest impact on engagement, we asked over 1,000 employees to tell us if they experienced certain events within the past year and then examined their engagement levels. Here’s what we learned…
Opportunities for Professional Development
Two of the most common and related drivers of engagement are providing employees with 1) opportunities to advance their careers, and 2) ways to develop new skills. In fact, our research has shown that across organizations, these are two of the top three engagement drivers in 2017. We wanted to know, do ‘events’ aligned with professional development truly have an impact on engagement. It turns out they do.
Finding #1. Employees who said they had a meaningful conversation with their supervisor about their professional development within the last year were 4 times more likely to be engaged than employees who did not.
When we speak with managers about the feedback on these questions, they are often surprised by the lower than expected percentage of people who said they had a meaningful development conversation. We often hear, “100% of employees should agree with this; we require annual performance reviews!” However, when we explore this topic with employees the key is the word, “meaningful.” Employees tell us that the evaluation process often feels like a formal, check-the-box activity rather than an ongoing, valuable dialog.
Another “event” associated with development and career advancement is the opportunity to attend trainings and conferences. Our research that the ability to participate in these events also had an impact on engagement.
Finding #2. Employees who participated in a work-related training or conference were 3 times more likely to be engaged than employees who didn’t have or take advantage of these opportunities.
What to do? Managers should touch base with employees to ensure they understand their professional goals and be on the look-out for opportunities to help them develop the skills to get there. Rather than sending employees to standard trainings or conferences, be sure there is a connection to the employee’s career and work goals.
In addition, set the tone that employee development is not the responsibility of the manager alone. Employees need to ask for the feedback and opportunities that are important to them to ensure their own growth and development.
The Impact of Co-Workers
The people we work with have an immediate impact on our daily experiences. They can be a source of learning and collaboration, or frustration and stress. Our research found that when employees are assigned a new supervisor or have a close friend/coworker leave the organization, it has an impact on engagement.
Finding #3. Those who said they were assigned a new supervisor in the last 12 months were 2 times less likely to be engaged.
Finding #4. Those who said they had a close co-worker or friend leave the organization were 2 times less likely to be engaged.
What to do? Obviously, organizations have a need to change reporting relationships and employees come and go. So, what can a leader do to prevent the impact of personnel changes on engagement?
When it comes to being assigned a new supervisor, employees tell us that it takes time to get to know their new boss: How to they like to communicate? What are their expectations? Do they understand how to use my talents? When a manager/employee enters a new relationship, consider giving priority to relationship building, expectation setting, and communication to lessen the learning curve, remove ambiguity, and ensure employees feel valued in the transition.
Similarly, when a beloved team member leaves the organization, be cognizant of the importance of relationships. Ensure employees have time to get to know one another on a personal and professional level.
Time to Re-Charge
We are often told that it is important to take time off from work to recharge, reflect and ensure our personal well-being. However, high workload, constant change, and the expectation of being connected 24-7 makes it difficult to truly unplug. However, our research indicates that doing so has an impact on engagement levels:
Finding #5. Those who said they had taken a full week off of work to do something fun or relaxing were 2 times more likely to be engaged than employees who didn’t take this time to unplug.
What to do? Encourage employees to take their vacation time and ensure there is coverage while they are out so that they can truly have a break from work. While it may feel difficult in the short-run, in the long-run employees will return with new energy and focus. Further, be sure to role model that it is ok to take time off by doing so yourself.
What other personal or professional “events” have you seen have an impact on employee engagement?