Education Opinion

Building Practices To Increase Employee Engagement

By Emily Douglas-McNab — January 28, 2013 3 min read
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In previous posts, I’ve written about the importance of having satisfied, engaged, and loyal staff to maximize organizational effectiveness. Talent managers and other business, education, and nonprofit leaders can also learn a lot by examining how disengaged employees can damage an organization’s culture and bottom line. According to research from Gallup, “actively disengaged employees--the least productive--cost the American economy up to $350 billion per year in lost productivity.”

CareerBliss also works to collect and report information on employee satisfaction and engagement. Every year, the organization releases their “50 Happiest Companies in America,” which is based on an analysis of independent employee-submitted reviews that ask individuals to rank how they feel about “key happiness factors at work”, such as compensation, culture, work environment, growth opportunities, job control, job resources, daily tasks, level of control, organization reputation, and fellow employees commitment and relationships. From this information “bliss scores” are calculated. The top ten companies for 2013, based on more than 100,000 reviews, include Pfizer in the top spot, as well as NASA, the U.S. Department of Defense, KBR, Cisco Systems, Motorola, Avaya, General Electric, Qualcomm, and Cognizant. I encourage you to check out all 50 of the “happiest” companies, which includes several organizations that we don’t typically see on the traditional business award lists.

In a recent Fast Company article by Lydia Dishman, “Secrets of America’s Happiest Companies,” examines Gallup’s findings as well as the CareerBliss survey trends to create “The 5 rules of happy employees,” which include:
1. Happy employees don’t stay in one role for too long. Movement and the perception of improvement create satisfaction. Status quo, on the other hand, creates burnout.
2. From research we know that there is a strong correlation between having the ability to meaningfully impact your environment and happiness.
3. Having policies in place that discuss how and when recognition of a job well done is to occur increases the likelihood of an organization being a “happy place”.
4. Work and life must be integrated--not balanced.
5. Organizations must understand that individuals are people first and employees second. Further, practices must be in place to ensure the well-being of individuals is recognized.

Interestingly, the education community does a pretty good job when it comes to rules two, four, and five. However, improvement is needed around rules one and three. In my experience, many teachers do not share with their colleagues if they receive an award or are recognized in other ways for outstanding performance. One teacher told me that she was concerned with “professional jealously.” Another educator shared that when she was invited to an accept an award for being highly effective, her principal told staff that she was sick to ensure that she wasn’t seen as a “brownnoser.”

I know more organizations that do not practice employee recognition (via cash or noncash methods) than do. In addition, in some school districts, moving an individual from one role (5th grade science teacher) to another (7th grade science teacher) is viewed as insulting or punishment, as opposed to a possible way to prevent staff burn out. However, I hear weekly from teachers across the country and read articles about the high levels of burnout among teaching staff. It makes you think that there may be opportunities to change current processes and beliefs to improve the environment for educators.

Whether we’re talking about a Fortune 500 company or a school district, employee engagement is critical to organizational success. As talent managers, we must recognize that this work does not happen by accident. We must be deliberate in ensuring employee satisfaction, engagement, and loyalty.

To read more on talent management, organizational strategy, and employee engagement, you can follow me on Twitter: @EmilyDouglasHC.

The opinions expressed in K-12 Talent Manager are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.