Basic Human Needs Drive Employee Engagement

  • Basic Human Needs Drive Employee Engagement

    Before I discuss Human Needs I want to share some info on Employee Engagement.  If you’ve read about this on my site already, scroll down to the picture and read on from there.

    Employee Engagement is a term that is becoming increasingly relevant to employers.  It’s definition is along the lines of the discretionary effort that workers can opt to provide their employer.  That is to say ‘the above and beyond’ efforts of some workers over their peers.  This is not about longer hours, but rather taking responsibility and expressing a concern for the well-being of their employer and the people around them including their teams.  People who are engaged by their work enjoy it, are often good at what they do, seek further development and feel a connection to their efforts, they report a ‘sense of purpose’ surrounding their work.  Evidence suggests they are more productive, stay with an employer for longer and contribute more broadly than just their role scope.  Engaged people are often passionate about what they do and this effects their peers positively.  It’s what people do, not what they say, that inspires others and these employees have the potential to be magnetic and inspirational to others.  Who would you rather work with?  The person who thinks optimistically and focuses on what they CAN do or the grumble bum who’s always objecting and giving reasons why something CAN’T be done?  Focusing on improving employee engagement will have a direct effect on attraction and retention, moral, resilience and studies have also shown it has a direct correlation to bottom line performance.

    Engaged employes are rare in Australia with surveys over the past 10 years never showing more than 30% of workers being actively engaged by their work.  This is both startling and disturbing especially considering how much of our lives we spend working.  If you look at data such as absenteeism and it’s associated costs, increases in stress levels and workers compensation claims here in Australia the dollar value of disengaged employees is staggering.

    Employees can be categorised into three distinct groups with respect to engagement.

    1. Actively Engaged – less than 30% of pop’n.
    2. Disengaged – they turn up, do their job but’s it mostly about the pay-check.
    3. Actively Disengaged – this group have the potential to actively sabotage their teams and employer, are often disgruntled and erode relationships and productivity.
    My approach to employee engagement is NOT a one size fits all model.  In fact, I believe that’s where many well intentioned engagement programs fall down.  Managers make decisions about what ‘should’ engage their people.  My approach is to first consider our basic human needs, we all share the same ones.   There are several models – Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is probably one of the most commonly known.  Here are six that I like to use in the workplace.
    • Growth
    • Uncertainty
    • Connection
    • Contribution
    • Significance
    • Certainty
    What is uniquely individual is the way/s in which we seek to satisfy those needs and the priority we attach to one need over another.   For example I might attach a certain value to contribution in my work.  I want to ‘make a difference’.  One way in which I might express that need might be to volunteer with an Animal Refuge.  For you that might not scratch the itch whatsoever.  Your contribution might be to improve the plight of healthcare for elderly Australians, or refine lending practices of the financial institution you work for.  The options are endless.

    As an employer or a Manager, we spend much of our time thinking about what’s good for our people.  But we get in the way, we regulate, plan, manage, control and basically stifle any chance the individual has of ‘taking responsibility for their own engagement’.  Innovative companies like Google have implemented programs that while generic in nature (pro bono community work for example) allow the individual to select what it is that they do, be it animals, international monetary policy, drug aid ….

    Same with Growth.  One day a month Google employees are allowed to work on whatever they want.  The results of this program have been outstanding with several of the projects actually progressing to hugely successful products for Google.

    Incidentally, if you’re struggling with generational differences in the workplace, rest assured, ALL generations, X’s, Y’s and Boomers share the same basic human needs.  If you’re losing any particular group it’s probably because you’re imposing solutions that don’t meet their individual expression of those needs.

    I made a key point a couple of sentences earlier.  Spot it?   It was about individuals taking RESPONSIBILITY for their own engagement.  Imagine if I told you I was going to decide what you would eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, for the rest of your working life.  My approach is to equip people to understand what drives their engagement and how to seek it out, and that they can’t sit and wait for someone else to do it for them.  Working simultaneously on the management side of the paradigm I support them in letting go of control and focusing on enablement.  Think about it.  If someone was having their needs met by their current employer, why would they risk that by not meeting their employers needs.  And who knows what you may harness as a result?

    If you’ve read this far, there’s a good chance we’re on a similar page and we may benefit from talking with one another.   No sales pitch, no hard sell.  Just a conversation about your organisation or team and an exploration of what’s possible.  Be prepared to let go of some things, after all… “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.”

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