Should leaders care about employee happiness or is employee engagement a passing fad? Let me frame this debate in a slightly different way that I believe provides the best answer.
As part of creating value, leaders need to be intentional about achieving both task excellence and relationship excellence because our research found that both are necessary to achieve sustainable superior performance i.e. Task Excellence + Relationship Excellence = Sustainable Superior Performance. Both are also necessary if most employees are to experience a sense of satisfaction for the many hours they spend working. If employees feel unsatisfied, they will not perform tasks at a level that reflects excellence for a sustained period of time. They will likely be able to perform with excellence for a short period of time but eventually their lack of emotional energy will drag them down.
We are human beings, not machines. Emotion matters, even in business.
We should also recognize that employee engagement affects strategic alignment i.e. disengaged employees show up for the paycheck but they don’t tend to put extra effort in aligning their behavior with organizational goals.
Here are two data points to consider. Today in America, 75 percent of employees are not engaged in their work and of the 25 percent who are engaged, 60 percent of them are not aligned with organizational goals (this according to 2009 research from the Corporate Executive Board). The bottom line is that only 10 percent of America’s workforce are mobilized (i.e. both engaged and aligned). The opportunity to boost performance by improving employee engagement and strategic alignment is HUGE!!!
To learn more, I encourage you to check out this article Jason Pankau and I wrote for the Leader to Leader Journal entitled “To Boost Productivity, Connect with the Core.” To go even deeper, read the book that introduced the “Connection Cultures” that are necessary to achieve relationship excellence and sustainable superior performance. It is entitled Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team’s Passion, Creativity and Productivity. (Read what doctors at MD Anderson Cancer Center, one of the world’s leading cancer research and treatment centers, are saying about Fired Up or Burned Out at this link.)