Align Your Hamsters & Honeymooners
If you’re like many successful businesspeople, you’re a problem solver. You see something wrong and jump to find a solution. Yet when it comes to employee engagement, that approach doesn’t necessarily yield the best returns. Take your disengaged employees: Are you spending too much time trying to ‘fix’ them? You may be better off coaching them out of the organization and instead investing in those employees who are somewhere in the middle — neither fully engaged nor totally disengaged.
Your Hamsters and Honeymooners are a critical group to target, but before we explore who they are and what you can do to boost their engagement, let’s step back and consider what full engagement looks like.
The Engagement Equation
While your organization is keen to maximize the contribution of every employee toward business imperatives and metrics, each member of your workforce needs to find purpose and satisfaction at work. Consequently, our employee engagement model focuses on employees’ contribution to the organization’s success and personal satisfaction in their role. Full engagement represents an alignment of maximum job satisfaction (“I like my work and do it well”) with maximum job contribution (“I help achieve the goals of my organization”).
Engaged employees are not just committed. They are not just passionate or proud. They have a line-of-sight on their own future and on the organization’s mission and goals. They are enthused and in gear, using their talents and discretionary effort to make a difference in their employer’s quest for sustainable business success. (You can download a copy of our Employee Engagement report to learn more about the five levels of engagement, our findings on who’s engaged and who’s not, as well as organizational best practices.)
Hamsters & Honeymooners
We call employees who have relatively high levels of job satisfaction but low levels of contribution either Hamsters or Honeymooners. Hamsters (the animal) love to do two things: Enthusiastically run on the wheel in their cage, going nowhere and snooze under the cedar shavings in the corner. In your organization Hamster employees may be working enthusiastically — but on the wrong things so that they don’t deliver the results you need. They might also have a ‘happy to be at work but not happy working’ attitude, where they’ve managed to enjoy a comfortable niche but, again, aren’t necessarily doing what you need them to do.
Honeymooners, as the name implies, are new either to your organization or to their role. They’re excited about this new stage of their career and about making a difference in your organization, but they aren’t fully productive. They are still trying to figure out what your organization needs them to do.
To help these employees become fully engaged, you need to capitalize on their enthusiasm and emotional commitment to your organization and direct their efforts toward what matters most. In today’s often-tumultuous business environment it’s easier said than done.
1. Communicate. If your organization is like most, short-term strategies have shifted more than once in the last year. Make sure all your leaders — starting at the top and on down to the front lines — continually remind employees of mission-critical priorities. This type of communication is important for the whole organization, but especially critical for Honeymooners who are new to the conversation.
2. Translate. Help employees understand what their top priorities are given the organization’s direction. Chances are they have more work than ever and need guidance on what to stop doing in addition to what to start doing. It’s time to throw out stale goals from the performance management system and drive new dialogue about priorities and focus. New priorities are an excellent excuse to have conversations with Hamsters who have been dozing off down the hall — to establish a sense of urgency and expectations.
3. Drive accountability. Expectations are important but you need to follow through. It’s too easy to back off on results in tumultuous times. Hamsters need to understand the difference between activity and results — and their metrics and rewards need to align with the latter.
4. Leverage managers. Your managers are in the right place — positioned between organizational imperatives and employee aspirations — to improve engagement. They can’t if they’re not engaged themselves. Invest in moving new managers out of their honeymoon period quickly. And don’t expect Hamster managers to make a difference. If they don’t know where the organization is going — or aren’t held accountable for results — you need to align them first. Finally, what about totally disengaged managers? Deal with them now because they’re driving employees out the door now — even in this bad economy.
Satisfaction Does Not Equal Engagement
The biggest mistake you can make right now is to assume higher employee satisfaction levels are all you need to succeed. Satisfaction today is likely to be “I am so happy I still have a job with a good commute or decent benefits.” Your organization’s future depends on a fully engaged workforce — enthused and in gear to deliver.