Cheryl Pignotti

If you ask top-performing organizations what drives performance outcomes, the answer will be employee engagement. Research has shown that the best performing companies understand engagement is a strategic foundation for the way they do business, and essential in effectively managing human capital. Engaged employees are more customer-focused, more productive, and more likely to withstand temptations to leave.

Let the numbers speak

A recent study conducted by the Gallup Management Journal resulted in the following findings:

  • 29% of employees are actively engaged in their jobs. These employees are passionate about what they do and feel profoundly connected to their company.
  • 88% of these engaged employees believe they positively impact the quality of their organization’s product.
  • 72% of these engaged employees believe they positively affect customer service.
  • 68% of these engaged employees believe they positively impact costs in their jobs.

Additionally, Gallup’s latest meta-analysis (data from 152 organizations) revealed the following:

  • Ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is 9.57:1 in world-class organizations. The ratio is 1.83:1 in average organizations.
  • Engaged organizations have 3.9 times the EPS (earnings per share) growth rate compared to those actively disengaged in the same industry.

I will highlight that again: engaged organizations have 3.9 times the earnings per share growth rate compared to actively disengaged companies in the same industry. That’s a wow, and a very compelling reason to focus on what many view as “soft skills.”

These results suggest people are motivated by an intrinsic factor (personal growth) rather than extrinsic factors (pay/reward/punishment).

What really motivates us?

Daniel H. Pink, the author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, talks about how to boost employee satisfaction and performance in the workplace. According to Pink, external rewards are great for follow-the-recipe tasks or for performing simple tasks, but that the “carrot/stick approach isn’t effective for creative, conceptual work.”

Pink goes on to say, “People can’t be managed or incentivized to engagement; they must get there on their own.”

Pink’s strategy: Pay people enough to take the extrinsic motivators off the table and provide them with three intrinsic motivators:

  1. Autonomy
  2. Mastery
  3. Purpose

So who is responsible for improving employee engagement? Everyone!

Five engagement checkpoints

Check 1: Company Culture
It starts with the organization’s culture, which should include a commitment to improving the partnership between employees and employer. Inspirational leadership is the ultimate perk. The organization’s leadership team is responsible for helping employees understand what their purpose is and the importance of their job. Reminding employees of the company’s mission in meaningful ways (i.e. it doesn’t work if you simply hang a poster on the wall) brings it alive in the workplace can help employees stay engaged.

Check 2: Relationship with Manager
Managers not only need to set high standards but be clear in their expectations. Take the time to discuss expectations – what you expect of your employees and what your employees expect of you. Give employees autonomy over their time and techniques, allowing them to set their own “pathways” — so to say — to self-direction. Employee engagement is a direct reflection on how employees feel about their relationship with the boss.

Check 3: Learning Opportunities
Top companies provide learning opportunities. It’s more satisfying to learn stuff than to have learned stuff. Ask for employees’ input in solving business issues. Develop employees for their career and future in the organization. As you grow your people, they will grow your business.

Check 4: Communication
Ensure employees understand managers are in control, but let them know exactly where the company is going and why things are done the way they are. The “hows” are covered all the time, but people want to know the “whys” as well.

Check 5: Recognition and Feedback
Employees are motivated to get better at what they do and to learn through receipt of frequent feedback. Just pay attention to your staff. Say “great job!” and ask what would make their day or job better and then follow through if you can.

Take your temperature

For many companies, employee engagement is a new concept. The first step in creating a culture that embraces engagement is to conduct a survey. The results will provide a useful baseline to see how many of your employees are engaged, and where to focus the energy to get more commitment.

The following are some questions that can be included in a survey:

  1. Do you know what your manager expects from you at work?
  2. Are you proud to tell people where you work?
  3. How do you feel the night before going back to work after the weekend or vacation?
  4. Do you get to do what you do best at work every day?
  5. Have you received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past seven days?
  6. Does your supervisor seem to care about you as a person?
  7. Is there someone at work who encourages your development?
  8. Do you feel your job is important?
  9. Are your co-workers committed to doing quality work?
  10. Do you have a friend or buddy at work?

Leaders aren’t exempt

Leaders should take their own engagement pulse – to what degree are you committed to and enthusiastic about the organization? Have trust in your employees and make them trust you as well. Your trust and commitment are directly related to how engaged your employees might be.

For more about building trust, consider the ARM Summer School Program. The first session on July 20 is titled The SuperPower of Trust.  Facilitated by former ACA President Harry Strausser III, the class will help teach collection managers and supervisors how to build authentic relationships with their collectors that will accelerate performance and build loyalty. Learn more at http://www.insidearm.com/media/superstars/#labs.

Cheryl Pignotti is the VP of Employee Services at General Service Bureau/Early Out Services. She has over 25 years experience in personnel/human resource management and 13 years experience in the collections industry. Cheryl was instrumental in the implementation and certification of ACA’s Professional Practices Management System (PPMS) in 2004. She continues to oversee the annual auditing and recertification process leading continuous improvement, compliance and operational efficiency.

Cheryl championed the development of her company’s Ethics Program which was launched in the spring of 2010, and is the Chair of its Ethics Committee.  Her focus on strategies to engage employees, aligning their personal values to the organizational values, empowers employees to be their best not only professionally but personally.  This has resulted in GSB being recognized as one of the Best Places to Work in Collections in 2008 and again in 2010.


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