Engagement: Missionaries vs. Mercenaries

I have met with over a hundred business owners in the last year.  When asked what their biggest challenge is for the coming year, over 85% of them said it was employee retention.

The economy is better and the job market has improved.  Those who were lucky enough to remain employed throughout the recession worked for companies that were forced to do more with less and they took on responsibilities that were not part of their job description.

Also, most folks haven’t received a significant raise or bonus in a while.  Maybe they got a 3% cost-of-living increase.  In comparison, getting a new job can provide a 10-15 percent bump in pay.  Needless to say, employees are looking to leave.  If someone has stayed just for money, whether they are a top performer or mediocre, they’re a mercenary.  They’ll leave when the next highest bidder comes along.  Mercenaries are not engaged.

So how do you increase engagement?  You need to find out what drives your employees.  What are their individual goals?  Are they looking to become an expert in something?  Are they saving money for a house?  Do they want a promotion or more responsibility?

Determine if you have the right people on the bus in the right seats.  If you can identify their goals and align them to the company’s goals you will not only increase engagement and improve morale, you’ll increase productivity and improve employee retention.  You’ll create missionaries.  As a result, you will also improve bottom line profits.

Andrew Carnegie funded a study on what makes people successful.  It boils down to three things:  knowledge, skills (the application of knowledge), and attitude.  Turns out that knowledge and skills account for only 15 percent of success.  The other 85 percent is attitude.

Think about the highly successful people you know.  Adjectives like “determined, hard-working, diligent, coachable, and positive” come to mind.  Those attributes are attitudinal.  Having the knowledge and applying it are just the basics.  Think about your best and worst experiences with customer service.  Attitude makes all the difference. 

What are the consequences of low engagement?  Actively disengaged employees are not just sitting around playing Pokemon or discussing the fate of Jon Snow on Game of Thrones.  They’re walking around actively disengaging others.  Misery loves company.  Negative people find each other.  Actively disengaged employees are the epicenter of office politics, the source of gossip, and purveyors of negativity.  They are not benign.  They are malignant.

Conversely, what is the impact of being highly engaged?  We have all worked with superstars.  They’re easy to spot.  They’re magnetic, contagiously positive, fun, and helpful.  They’re drinking the Kool-Aid and they’re the “go-to” person in the organization.  They’re the top people in the company, and they always have a smile.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see that staring back at you in the mirror each day before you go to work?