Five Equals One More: Increase Production Without Increasing Staff

Barb Krantz Taylor | March 11, 2011 | Blog | Leadership/Other | 2 minute read

Engaged employees perform at 100 percent of their ability, but did you know that the most highly engaged employees perform at 120 percent? According to the Workforce Intelligence Institute, you could gain productivity equal to one more full-time equivalent employee for every five people you move from engagement to high engagement.

Think about that: one more full-time employee for no extra payroll or benefits. At a time when staffing is very lean, that sounds like a pretty good proposition. The challenge is in understanding what makes people engaged and how to ramp up their levels of engagement.

Traditionally, companies have used carrots or sticks to motivate or engage employees. They offer raises, bonuses and other perks. Right now, few companies can offer a lot of carrots except to their top talent. They could try sticks to motivate the rest: performance quotas tied to disciplinary action or other demerits and loss of privileges. However, sticks tend to result in resentment rather than top performance. Less engagement corresponds to lower performance

Ironically, neither carrots nor sticks are the reasons that employees become highly engaged. According to The Bailey Group employee engagement survey, people are highly engaged when they have the following:

  • Work that matches their talents and strengths
  • Positive challenges and fun
  • Great relationships with co-workers, managers and leadership
  • A feeling of making a difference and achievement

These soft elements of work are ranked much higher in the survey than salary or perks. Compensation is still important, but highly engaged employees expect that they will be compensated well. Their level of engagement correlates with the significance of their work and enjoyment of the work culture.

What is the formula for highly engaged people? Everyone plays a role, but one of the significant factors is highly engaged owners and/or senior leaders. Many senior leaders believe that they are doing a good job of relating to and communicating with people, but The Bailey Group employee engagement survey often reveals that people want more out of senior leadership.

Senior leaders who are approachable, open to feedback and trusted to lead the organization in a strategic direction are huge drivers of employee engagement. To get a pulse on how leadership is perceived at your organization, you need to ask your people. The employee engagement survey is a way to do it confidentially and efficiently while receiving honest and revealing information.

Start with the people who are engaged and the best performers. Find out why work is fun and challenging and how relationships enhance their engagement. We have found, however, that many managers or leaders don’t know how to have this conversation in a way that results in useful feedback. Secondly, employees can’t always point to specific things that make their work engaging. They may say things like, “I like the people here” or “I’m good at what I do.”

Understanding human behavior and quantifying it in a way that results in action steps isn’t as easy as asking questions. There is a science to identifying engagement factors and duplicating them throughout the organization.

However, people who are highly engaged will work harder even through stressful times. People who aren’t engaged react much worse to stress and longer hours. Rather than continually trying to get more out of just 20 percent of your employees (the highly engaged), moving that percentage higher will support retention, lower cost per employee and more success.

The Bailey Group offers tools and workshops to help employees identify what engages them and what they need to increase it. We also work with managers and leaders to facilitate higher engagement. For more information, give us a call.