How to Improve Employee Motivation, Commitment, Productivity, Well-Being and Safety

By Kimball, L. Scott; Nink, Carl E. | Corrections Today, June 2006 | Go to article overview

How to Improve Employee Motivation, Commitment, Productivity, Well-Being and Safety


Kimball, L. Scott, Nink, Carl E., Corrections Today


"People are our most valuable asset" is one of the oldest cliches in business today. Yet it is true, and evidence exists that organizations worldwide are struggling to meet production and service demands knowing that these outcomes are directly dependent on the ability, commitment and skill of a work force that is predominantly disengaged. According to Gallup Organization research, only 29 percent of employees are motivated and energized. (1) What, then, is happening to the other 71 percent?

For as long as organizational dynamics have been studied, at least in the past century, researchers have been struggling to understand how the many aspects of human relations in the workplace affect bottom-line performance. Organizations must consider the nature of employee engagement, because this one variable is likely to predict an organization's ability to achieve high results with productivity, profitability, customer service, staff retention and workplace safety. (2)

Job satisfaction is critical to maintaining an engaged work force. A 2005 report of the Conference Board (based on a national survey) shows that a growing number of employees are unhappy with their jobs. (3) Dissatisfaction crosses all ages and income levels. According to the survey, just more than half of all workers earning more than $50,000 are satisfied with their jobs. However, only 14 percent are very satisfied. Of those earning less than $15,000, about 45 percent are satisfied.

The Conference Board report shows that employees overall are least satisfied with the fringe benefits and promotional and bonus pay policies. The greatest decline in satisfaction occurs with workers ages 35 to 44 (60.9 percent to 49.2 percent), the report indicates. The study also found that four in 10 workers feel disconnected from their employers and two-thirds of the workers are not motivated or do not identify with the agency mission. In addition, the study indicates that one-fourth of all employees are not productive and are simply there to get a paycheck.

Satisfaction with pay is less powerful as a predictor of job satisfaction or employee engagement and is less likely to predict whether an employee stays or goes. Employees may join a company because of its generous pay scale or lucrative benefits package, but how long they stay and how productive they are is determined by the relationship with their immediate supervisor much more than by their satisfaction with pay. Gallup research provides 12 questions that give managers a working management model to increase the level of engagement of their employees. (4) The Gallup research indicates employees are "engaged" when:

* They know what is expected of them;

* They have the right materials and equipment to do their work correctly;

* They have the opportunity to do what they do best every day;

* In the past seven days, they have received recognition or praise for doing good work;

* Their supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about them as a person;

* There is someone at work who encourages their development;

* Their opinions seem to count;

* The mission of the company makes them feel like their work is important;

* Their co-workers are committed to doing quality work;

* They have a best friend at work--someone to unconditionally rely upon;

* In the past six months, they have talked with someone about their progress; and

* They have opportunities to learn and grow.

High scores on the 12 questions indicate the presence of deep worker "engagement," which is the condition that engenders satisfaction and other emotional outcomes like loyalty and pride.

The Impact of Employees With Low Engagement

Managers should be concerned about the devastating costs of low employee engagement. Gallup estimates that actively disengaged employees--the least productive--cost the American economy up to $350 billion per year in lost productivity, including absence, illness and other problems that result when employees are not engaged.

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