As the qualified labor market continues to shrink and leadership positions continue to become available, it is becoming increasingly important to develop and retain future leaders. However, even the companies who are most dedicated to leadership development are consistently confronted with high-potential leaders leaving for other opportunities. Blame it on the wage structure or blame it on the Millennials, but the more likely culprit is related to how employees are engaged in their organizations.
An engaged employee is one who is fully involved in and enthusiastic about their job, going above and beyond what is minimally required. Research by the Gallup Group still shows that 71% of Americans who go to work every day are not engaged in their job. This means a significant portion of the workforce is not willing to put in the discretionary effort that leads to going the extra mile, caring what customers think, or working more efficiently. They are doing the work because they “have to,” not because they “want to.”
When employees are engaged, an organization benefits from:
- Lower absenteeism
- Lower turnover
- Fewer quality incidents
- Higher customer metrics
- Higher productivity
- Fewer safety-related accidents
Many organizations know this study well enough to at least survey their employees, but then what? A study by Motivosity found that only 55% of companies have a strategy to fix engagement problems, and 98% of CEOs don’t pay attention to engagement data. The companies that are considering employee engagement are most often using a strategy that involves surveying and action planning, but that doesn’t seem to be working. Employee engagement numbers have only grown 3% in the U.S. over the past 5 years.
In the case of employee engagement, top down action plans may not be the answer. Instead, think about how the workplace functions in reality. You have your assigned team, your chosen group of coworkers, the people who sit near you, your boss, your subordinates, your peers. Each of these groups is defined by the connections within—the people and the relationships. A person is 15% more likely to be happy if directly connected to a happy person. If a person is indirectly connected with a happy person with two degrees of separation, they are 10% more likely to be happy, and with three degrees of separation, 6% more likely. Interestingly, each unhappy connection decreases the likelihood of happiness by 7%. Therefore, organizations must consider real changes in engagement at both the person and the group levels to impact connectedness and engagement.
- Understanding the individual. It is important to understand the complexities that make each person who they are. Organizations too often hire for what someone can do, and fire for who someone is. Everyone has innate drives (e.g., survival) that dictate needs (e.g., hunger) that result in behavior (e.g., eating). A behavior may look the same from an observational perspective, but organizations need to dig in deeper to understand the same behavior may be coming from very different drives and needs.
The Predictive Index® Behavioral Assessment helps us break these down into four primary behavioral factors, each of which a person can have to a low, average, or high extent:
Dominance. The drive to exert one’s influence on people or events.
Extraversion. The drive for social interaction with other people.
Patience. The drive for consistency and stability.
Formality. The drive to conform to rules and structure.
These core drives and their relation to one another provide a simple framework for understanding and predicting workplace behaviors and motivating needs.
- Identifying the job fit. Misalignment between natural tendencies and key responsibilities of the job is a serious force of disengagement. Organizations often don’t have enough understanding of the position’s behavioral requirements, let alone an understanding of the individual’s behavioral drives, to ensure a job is the right “fit” from more than a skills perspective. Imagine an individual who takes time to connect, prefers tasks over people, and thrives in a stable and consistent environment being hired into a fast-paced sales role that is constantly on the road meeting with and cold-calling prospects. It may be an exaggeration, but these misses in pairing the right person for the right job happen frequently.
- Managing with the “platinum rule.” Everyone knows the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would want to be treated. However, managers typically have different behavioral drives and needs then those they are supervising. Instead, employ the Platinum Rule: Treat others the way they want to be treated. Management styles are predictable based on an individual’s highest drive, i.e., if a manager’s highest drive is Dominance, they will manage with an authoritative “telling” style. An individual’s highest drive also is a great predictor of employee need, i.e., if an employee’s highest drive is Extraversion, they will need feedback to be successful and fully engaged. If the manager is telling this employee what to do and how to do it, they are likely not having the collaborative meetings to discuss performance and provide feedback.
- Making it OK to be unlike the team. A lack of understanding of a team’s dynamics and differences can lead to alienation, disengagement, frustration, storytelling, or even sabotage. If an employee feels “different” from the rest of the group, it can make it difficult for the employee to understand their role on the team or how to be effective in the group. Consider a team that is largely comprised of individuals who are highly extraverted, have a lower attention to detail, and live out a brainstorming culture. Management hires an employee who is more aggressive, data-driven, and thinks things through before speaking to join the group. Without an awareness of the differences between the individual and the team, management will not understand how to use them to their advantage and keep the new employee as an engaged member of the team. If management is aware of the differences, they will see how the new employee could serve as a captain of the team, pushing the group to be creative and take action.
To be a high-performing organization means striving for all employees, especially the next generation of leaders, to be fully engaged. Fixing the engagement problem is possible when management understands motivating needs and behavior.
To learn more about Predictive Index® and how it can help your financial institution better understand what engages your employees, contact Shelly Schwane.
 Gallup Group, “State of the American Workplace,” March 2017.
 Christakis, Nicholas and Fowler, James, Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks, January 2011.