What American Businesses Can Learn

by Jenkins, Eva Wednesday, May 18, 2011
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The military strike against Osama bin Laden is a case study in how employee engagement drives success says Washington, D.C. area business consultant Eva Jenkins.

The recent historic military strike against Osama bin Laden is likely to remain front page news for some time to come with lasting impact on both military and political policy-making. As a consultant who focuses on ‘human capital’ in the business world, Eva Jenkins hopes it will have a far-reaching effect on American corporate policy-making as well.

“The mission provides a striking example of what can be accomplished when employees – in this case a team of highly skilled Navy Seals – are ‘engaged,’” she says.

Disengagement Costs $350 Billion Annually
The majority of workers start their careers as enthusiastic, committed employees, but due to poor management, flawed processes and a failure in leadership, they quickly become disengaged. Research by the Gallup Organization reveals that the longer an employee stays with a company, the less engaged he/she becomes.

Inevitably, disengagement begins to eat away at the foundation of a company, translating into low productivity, lost profit and sales, and lower customer satisfaction. Gallup estimates that “actively disengaged employees cost the American economy up to $350 billion per year in lost productivity.”

Taking Pride in the Greater Good
SEAL training puts an emphasis on teamwork and success and is measured in terms of shared mission objectives, rather than individual success. Similarly, in a corporate setting, engaged employees have a strong connection to the goals of the organization and to a large degree they define success in terms of corporate profits, rather than personal gains.

In both situations, clearly stated goals and ongoing training are essential to the process.

Regardless of the business niche, whether it’s an elite team of military operatives or the men and women on the line at a ‘widget’ factory, employees must receive clear communication from their supervisors if they are to remain engaged. They need to see the ‘big picture’ so they can understand their role in it and be proud of the value of their contribution.

It is also important that employee performance be evaluated on a regular basis and that workers receive training and support in any area where their skills are lacking. SEALs are in training for 30 months before they are deployed. Sadly today, most American employees are expected to ‘hit the ground running’ with very little input from the people who have hired them.

“Everyone has a role that carries with it certain responsibilities from the CEO to the CSR,” says Jenkins. She points to the 2011 Employee Engagement Report from BlessingWhite Research that stratifies an organizational hierarchy into three levels and details three key performance obligations at each level:

Individuals (Employees): Ownership, clarity and action. “Individuals need to know what they want — understand what the company needs — and then have a willingness to take action to achieve both,” says Jenkins.

Managers: Coaching, relationships and dialogue. “Managers need to take the time to create and nurture personal, trusting relationships with their employees. They need to discover the individual talents, interests, and needs of the people who report to them and then match those with the organization’s objectives,” observes Jenkins. “They need to be hands-on with employees and check their engagement level regularly.”

Executives: Trust, communication and culture. “The most important thing executives can do is be consistent in their words and actions,” says Jenkins. “Rather than hiding out in the executive suite, they need to communicate frequently and in depth and align all business practices/behaviors throughout the organization to drive results and engagement.”

We’re All in This Together
Another essential aspect of employee engagement is strong relationships between coworkers. Engaged employees share an all-for-one and one-for-all commitment to success, while disengaged employees are concerned only about what they ‘get,’ not what they give.

“Employees that share a strong commitment toward one another have more confidence and are willing to take risks and strive for excellence,” “The fact that the SEALs have never left another SEAL behind on a mission and the extraordinary level of success they achieve is a testament to that belief system.”

Information is power. Insight and intelligence harness this power to drive results. In business, the right insights at the right time make all the difference in driving smart decisions about your workforce strategy, development and investments.