One of the challenges of moving the needle for better employee engagement is the mistaken belief that “engagement” is just another word for employee satisfaction or even employee happiness.
The problem with “satisfaction” is that it doesn’t set the bar high enough. A satisfied employee will show up on time, do what you tell her, and leave at quitting time. But she won’t come up with new ideas, or extra effort and will quit to join a new employer who will offer her five percent more pay.
Zappo’s CEO Tony Hsieh wrote the bestseller, Delivering Happiness, and while the intentions were right, it advanced the mistaken view that happy employees are productive employees. Not always.
I recently took my teenage daughters to a trendy teen clothing store and saw this first hand. The young worker had a big smile on his face as he tapped on his smartphone, but he didn’t greet us when we walked in. Laughter emanated from a triad of young workers in the corner, but they never stopped to ask us if we needed help finding anything. And the head-bopping smiling cashier seemed really happy, too, but she never asked us if we wanted to sign-up for the company credit card or loyalty program. Happy is great for workers, but doesn’t mean they are working on behalf of the company.
However, when someone is engaged, it means they are emotionally committed to their company and their work goals. They care about their work. They care about results. This makes them go above and beyond—to give discretionary effort. In fact, many fully engaged people are a little stressed at work. They aren’t necessarily walking the halls whistling a tune, and happily hanging out at the water cooler. Engaged sales people are the ones still banging out cold calls on a Friday afternoon. Engaged programmers are the ones working through lunch in order to hit a deadline. Engaged factory workers pull the chain to stop the line when they notice a defect.
As team leaders we need to remember that while we hope everyone is happy, what we are truly striving for is engagement—emotional commitment. It is only through engagement that we unlock discretionary effort and move the needle on sales, productivity, quality and ultimately profits.
Kevin Kruse is the author Employee Engagement 2.0. What are your engagement triggers: take the onlineDiscover Your Engagement Profile Quiz.