C’mon. Is it?
There’s a religious fervor to more and more of the writings about employee engagement. It's becoming an echo-chamber of the true believers. Group members shout slogans and quotes at each other, silent cheers and unseen rising fists in the form of likes and favorites.
I do it. I get excited. Yes! He or she is a believer!
I’ve seen it work, I’ve worked in companies where employee engagement was as good as it gets. I’ve led a company where we grew employee engagement to about as good as it gets and I’ve worked at a company where employee engagement, well, it was less than ideal.
The financial returns and our collective careers and the corresponding financial returns reflected all the assumptions about employee engagement. Engaged, they’re good; not engaged, they’re not.
So when I start to write or talk about it, well, I start preaching. I pace, I wave my hands, I point, I ignore my powerpoint slides. I ignore my script. I stream four, five, paragraphs in a row without taking a breath.
But that’s me.
Side note. Y’know way back in high school I completed one of those career assessments. The results showed my top two professions would ‘preachin’ and ‘analyzing.’ My strengths would be showcased as a preacher-man or as a therapist. Insert punchline. So, when I start talking about employee engagement, I understand the emotions and motivations and numbers ... and I start preaching.
But that’s me.
Just taking it on faith or riding the vicarious waves of well-written articles is a sure barrel-ride over the falls. So, don’t. Ask yourself. Is it worth it?
Let’s look at some numbers. Let's look at $500 billion, per year.
Gallup estimates that these actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. between $450 billion to $550 billion each year in lost productivity.
Let's call it $500. $500 billion. That's worth something, right?
Sorta, you may think. I agree. It doesn't answer the three most important questions we ask ourselves all day long.
- What's in it for me? - That's $500 billion ... for the whole country. So? What's in it for me?
- Why should I care? See above. Why should I care? I can't fix the economy.
- Why should I believe? Yeah, who's this Gallup? Where'd they get this number?
Context can help answer those questions.
The U.S. economy is worth about ... $16.3 Trillion. That’s the amount of our Gross Domestic Product or GDP, defined by the US Department of Commerce’s Burea of Economic Analysis as the value of the production of goods and services in the United States, adjusted for price changes. Just so we’re clear. And in 2013 that grand total was $16.3 Trillion. For perspective, China's GDP in 2013 was $9.24 trillion. Link.
That $500 billion is ... is 3.067% of our GDP. Let’s round it to 3.1%.
So, all this excitement about employee engagement's possibilities comes down to 3.1% of our Gross Domestic Product.
So, if we’d found a way in 2013 to create 100% employee engagement our GDP would have grown 7.0% last year. ( Employee engagement’s 3.1% plus the naturally occurring 3.9%.) At that rate our economy doubles in ... less than ten years. Just for context, China's grew at 7.7% and everybody's all freaked out about it, either marveling at their business skills or trembling in their cubicles.
What if our economy grew 7%, instead of the 3.9%, would that do to:
- job growth?
- your 401K or IRA?
- our federal and state budgets?
- We might be able to repair our highways and bridges, give teachers a raise, return arts and phys-ed programs to schools ... build a few mass transit systems between cities (creating more jobs.)
- our salaries and benefits?
Even this Art major knows it's tricky to equate macro-economic trends with micro-economic trends. Still, I'll ask the question. What if:
- your cash flows went up by three percentage points? What are they now? Now add 3 percentage points. Let’s say your cash-flows are 12%. Now make them 15%.
- your revenues grew nearly twice as fast? Let's say it's six percent (your revenues will double in 10 years). With an engaged workforce your annual revenue growth rate became 9.1%
How’d that make you feel?
How would that change your conversations around budgets and bonuses, payraises, too?
If you say, Well that’s above my pay grade, okay, you’re right. The questions you have to ask then is
- Do I want to stay at the paygrade?
- Is it worth it to learn the language of financial reports and the stories they tell?
- Is it worth the risk to ask the question: Hey, what if our cash-flows were 3.1% higher this year? What would be willing to do to achieve that?
If it’s not, then go look at that cat video on YouTube one more time. Stay where you are. Ignorance is bliss especially with so many distractions everyday.
But, if your company and your colleagues are worth raising your head up and looking around, raising your hand in the next budget meeting, arm yourself with some information and ask informed question.
There's tons more data about employee engagement, what it does for your and your company and how little it can cost. This is a little.
But does it answer the question: Employee Engagement, is it worth it?