Football on a pitch

Does Employee Engagement Matter? Ask football!

Employee engagement is critical to business success. Very simply, an engaged workforce is a productive workforce. And a disengaged workforce puts the brake on performance.

There was a high-profile example of this in action earlier this year. Leicester City, the 2016 Premier League football champions, were performing extremely badly just a few months after winning the title. They were one point above the relegation zone, and had lost 5 matches in a row.

Premier league table week 25 showing Leicester's position

So the owners took the difficult – and very unpopular – decision to sack their manager, Claudio Ranieri. The same guy who had led them to unprecendented success just a few months earlier.

A bold move. But it paid off! They started winning their games, and ended up mid-table, and safe for another season.

Premier league table week 38 showing Leicester's final position

The average points per game before the sacking was 0.84. Not good. The average points per game afterwards was 1.53.

Why did this change work? It doesn’t matter. For Leicester, it was the solution to their disengagement problem, and quite possibly saved them many millions of pounds – i.e. the cost of relegation.

As soon as they made this single change, results started going their way. Exactly the same group of employees produced very different results, indicating that their levels of engagement were transformed, from low to high.

A question.

Is your team like Leicester City?

If it is, you too can also achieve better results, just by increasing your employee engagement levels. And most of the time you won’t have to sack the manager. Even simple adjustments to the working environment can be just as powerful, on a smaller scale.

What do we mean by Employee Engagement?

There are various definitions available, but this is my favourite:

Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals. This emotional commitment means engaged employees actually care about their work and their company.  When employees care – when they are engaged- they use discretionary effort.*

In other words – engaged employees feel valued at work, and they feel some personal responsibility for the team’s / company’s overall performance. They are more likely to ‘go the extra mile’, and interact well with their colleagues and management.

In practical terms, this means that:

  • the customer service agent will take ownership of the problem and will call back to follow up;
  • the IT support person will stay late to sort out the problem;
  • the footballer will chase down loose balls, commit to tackles, and hold his head up when playing.

And why are they doing this? Because they feel valued by the organisation and they want to give something back.

It’s a virtuous circle.

By contrast, disengaged employees:

  • look the other way when a problem occurs that is slightly outside their job description, or comfort zone;
  • leave work at 5pm, no matter how urgent the problem might be. Unless you’re paying overtime, of course;
  • go into tackles half-heartedly, lose confidence, and don’t trust their team mates.

But engaging my employees takes time and costs money!

This is true. But what is it costing you in terms of time and money to have a disengaged workforce? Probably much, much more. We know from our own and our clients’ experience just how expensive it can be.

Just look at Leicester City.

And believe it or not, most workers in the UK are not engaged with their work. This is a massive problem for UK industry in general, and for your business in particular.

But it’s also a great opportunity! You have it in your power to transform your workplace so that people actually want to come and work for you – and don’t want to leave. Statistically, most working environments aren’t like this.

Warning signs that indicate a disengaged workforce

If you’re a manager, you might relate to some of these symptoms of a disengaged workforce:

  • You know that productivity levels should be higher;
  • Your team’s sickness / absence rates are higher than you think they should be (UK average was 4.3 days per worker in 2016);**
  • People are absent from work more often on Mondays and Fridays;
  • Your team don’t communicate with you as much as you would like them to.  Or – you don’t feel comfortable communicating with them;
  • Your people don’t want to take on more responsibility;
  • They are not receptive to change;
  • People are taking surreptitious phone calls (perhaps from recruiters);
  • You have inconveniently high staff turnover levels;
  • You find it hard to recruit good-quality staff;
  • Your competitors seem able to recruit and retain better-qualified people than you do (read this blog);
  • You keep losing football matches.

All these problems cost money, and take time to manage. If you add it all up, the overall impact on your company’s bottom line can be enormous.

Think how much better the work environment would be if you could address these problems. And how much more productive your team would be.

But by laying the groundwork for a happy and productive working environment, you are much more likely to get more back.

You reap MORE than you sow.

Summary – increasing engagement levels

Increasing employee engagement isn’t difficult, but it takes thought and planning, it may require a change of management attitude, and you’ll need to put a process in place.

Step one is to measure exactly how engaged your current employees are. We can help with this, so get in touch to ask us how it’s done.

Unless you’re a billionaire owner of a football team, that is. I’m pretty sure you can make your own decisions.