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Engagement

Engagement – to most people it is a term that has positive connotations; it’s a sign of a happy commitment. In our private lives we celebrate the occurrence with an engagement ring, which is usually followed by the wedding ring. People who have had unsuccessful engagements usually say that is when the suffer-ring begins. The latest popular business catchword seems to be Engagement, and refers to getting staff to commit or actively be involved in the business. So how do you know if you have successful engagement with your people?

Well, if a staff member leaves, I guess that’s the equivalent of divorce, so you know it didn’t work out. But not every unhappy relationship leads to a break up. In my career, I have only been able to measure Engagement accurately once, and it was 96.9%. A very high result I believe, but I don’t think it’s always at that level, even with the same people involved. How did I measure it? Well, that is the percentage of our workforce that went above and beyond during the clean up from the Brisbane floods. The other 3.1% didn’t believe cleaning up after the floods was part of their job description. Technically, they were correct in that it wasn’t part of their normal duties, but the job description had also been washed away, so in the absence of that reference material and considering most of what they needed to do their job was covered in mud, we parted our ways. The remaining people were happy something had been done to address the issue, and I guess we actually reached 100% for a period thereafter.

So what’s the Engagement factor now? Less than what it was during such a major event, but we constantly work on improving employee satisfaction, because there is no doubt they are closely linked. They are also closely associated with customer service levels and productivity, which impact on the overall success of our business. According to Ernest & Youngs Survey on Productivity, 1/3 of Workers were defined as basically bludgers. These 3.5 million people who don’t pull their weight waste an average of 23% of their time at work. This cost has been calculated as costing Australia $41.3 Billion per year. 7% of the work force was classed as “Lost Souls” that account for almost twice as much wasted time as the average. Contrary to popular belief, Social Media only accounted for 4% of time wasted.

So what were the causes? According to the survey, unproductive workers:

  1. 1.Don’t take breaks (holidays) – leading to a poor work-life balance and unhealthy living and allocated less time to leisure and recreation.
  2. 2.Spent a lot of time travelling to and from work.
  3. 3.Take lot’s of sick leave

Some of these issues can be managed by a business by for instance managing leave arrangements and maybe flexible employment hours to avoid traffic. My own experience matches these findings, with “hero’s” doing consistently long days and never taking holidays actually less productive and achieving less overall. It’s the old saying: it’s not the hours you put in, but what you put in the hours. Likewise, people need to be there in the first place to do the work, so those frequently suddenly off sick are extremely disruptive to business.

We will only ever have some control of the above points, which is why the most interesting part of the findings was actually what businesses need to look at. The Top Time Wasting activities at work were:

  1. 1.Waiting for approval from a higher authority.
  2. 2.Reading and responding to emails and technology issues.
  3. 3.Tied up in Red Tape and Meetings

In other words, too many businesses make it hard for the productive people to perform their jobs. By having clear processes and more effective communication, we can make a world of difference to productivity and in turn achieve better employee engagement by empowering employees.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, “Sickies” cost Australian businesses $26 Billion per year, with 2.6% of the workforce absent on a typical work day. 63% of workers have taken time off when not sick. More worryingly, 11% of workers consider sick days to be part of their remuneration, and take their “full allowance” each year. Luckily, Fair Work Australia are now standing by employers who sack employees for “chucking a sickie” or sleeping in and other “wilful and deceitful behaviour”. Sick days were originally a safety net, but increasingly when there is talk of EBA’s or remuneration negotiations take place, they are seen as a “right”. I’ve even been told by an employee who had used up all his sick leave and had to use Annual Leave instead: “but I was actually sick this time”. Hmmm, and the Doctor who provided all the other medical certificates has no obligation to be a bit more professional? He didn’t return my calls, and his reception advised they can’t discuss the matter for privacy issues. I guess that’s what the fees paid to the practice paid were for, silence. Maybe we should look at rewarding the Engaged employees by trading off 10 days sick leave per year for 5 days extra annual leave? The drawback is that people who suffer a real illness for an extended period of time loose the safety net, and unfortunately we aren’t known as a nation that saves for rainy days.

Anyone who knows how to consistently measure Engagement is more than welcome to contact me. I guess by the time I’ve worked that out, the Theory boffins will have realised that Engagement is followed by Wedding/Partnership and Honeymoon. That’s when the work/life comparisons start to become too touchy/feely for me, and they’ll need to find a new flavour of the month.

As always, onwards and upwards!

Fred Carlsson
General Manager