ConnectingDotsLast week, we talked about Discretionary Effort (DE) and the many touch points employees control as part of the normal process of just doing their job.  What is the relationship between discretionary effort (DE) and employee engagement?  First, let’s understand Employee Engagement.

Employee engagement is a term that is often tossed about and sometimes misunderstood as an excuse to simply give employees whatever they want in order to make them happy.  My personal opinion is we should not endeavor to make employees happy (happiness is a relative term, personal in nature and often changes with time) but rather strive to make people “satisfied with their work environment” by meeting a practicable set of expectations established by the company such as promotional opportunities, competitive wages and working conditions, understood work rules, competent front line managers, performance feedback, etc.  If they are satisfied with the work they perform and are engaged to contribute at an even higher level, odds are they are probably pretty happy too.

According to Webster engagement is “……..a promise to meet or be present at a particular place ….”  You may want to consider the “moments of truth” your employees engage in regularly. What better place to be present in mind and body than at the precise time when your employees can make the difference between success and failure.

There is little argument with the premise statement that engaged employees contribute more discretionary effort than those who are not engaged.  This discretionary effort is exhibited by employees making “good decisions” on behalf of the company in their daily routines.   Good decisions being defined as any act that enhances the quality of the company brand.  The opposite, of course, would also be true.  Poor decisions or choices at critical times in the process (whatever that process is) would reflect negatively on the company brand.  Therefore, the “good decisions” employees make hundreds of times a day, add value to the company because they make the company mission successful whether it’s making up your hotel room, delivering packages, serving hot food hot or making sure there is no lipstick on your coffee cup when you first sit down at a table in your favorite restaurant.

The outcomes of discretionary effort fill in the gaps between the established procedures or protocol and what really happens.  Things will go wrong from time to time because the best procedures cannot account for the many variables that affect the outcome.  The best defense for the unplanned effects that are not accounted for in your procedures is your employees and how they respond when things don’t go right.  In other words, the results or outcomes of the choices they make.

So if you believe that capitalizing on employee engagement is a value added business strategy that can impact the company, brand, reduce costs, and increase productivity - How does one engage their employees?  According to credible research (and my own experience) three areas greatly enhance employee engagement.  They are Performance, Retention, and Creativity.  Engaged employees typically are 30% more likely to agree they regularly accomplish more than what’s expected of them and 73% are more likely to agree they are committed to the organization.  Finally, 38% of engaged employees are more likely to agree they are not afraid to try new things in their job.  Tactics that support these areas will begin to engage employees in your business.  Depending on the industry and organization, other areas that influence engagement such as the On-boarding Process, Communications and Dispute Resolution and others can be reviewed for applicability as an engagement strategy.

Through employee engagement strategies, you can address the discretionary effort in each person at the “moment of truth” transaction and thereby increase your edge over the competition and keep associated costs in control.

Next time we’ll talk more about Performance, Retention and Creativity and how these areas engage your employees.  Drop me a line and let me know what you think!

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