How to Drive Purpose When 85 Percent of Workers Are Tuned Out
Employee engagement plays a vital role in the overall health and success of a business. With a changing workforce that is having to adapt to not only being remote during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, but pivoting priorities and dealing with more outside stressors, leaders may find that keeping their employees engaged is even more challenging than ever. It is one thing to strategize how to boost employee engagement in the office, but to accomplish this when employees are dispersed and dealing with a changed world may come with a whole new set of challenges.
A Gallup study found companies with a highly engaged workforce are 21 percent more profitable. If driving employee engagement can have such a radical and positive impact on a business, why are 85 percent of workers disengaged?
From a leadership perspective, this is terrifying. If employees aren’t engaged, how can a company move forward?
In today’s dynamic work climate, businesses must establish measures of sustainability—for
both accomplishing external goals and capitalizing on workforce and employee productivity. If employees are not motivated and engaged, the company is not going to achieve its full potential. In 2019, Gallup estimated in its State of American Workforce report that actively disengaged employees cost the United States $483 billion each year in lost productivity.
Typically, poor communication, excessive workloads, and a lack of collaboration and employee recognition are the leading factors that spark disengagement at work.
To better motivate, inspire, and involve the workforce, leadership must do a better job of connecting with employees on an individual and team level. They must show them they matter, as does the work they are doing. People need to understand their purpose. They want to know what they do directly impacts the business.
The best way to accomplish this is to draw the connection between the work each individual, team, and manager is doing. One way of doing this is through strategic goals and measuring the objectives and key results (OKRs) of the organization. OKRs is a goal-setting framework for defining and tracking objectives and their outcomes.
Measurement Matters for Employees
Teams must set the right goals, so time is efficiently spent. It’s easy for diversions to take teams off course, but when that happens, main goals help redirect. Measuring the right goals increases outcomes, employee satisfaction, and team collaboration. It’s win-win for all involved —and essential in a fully remote team environment. We’ve seen an increase in success through goal-setting framework OKRs during this time.
The reason? In practice, the OKR methodology enables high-level company objectives to be defined by leadership, then cascaded down to the rest of the organization. The workforce is given clarity and direction. From there, each employee, no matter their role, recognizes where they should focus their time and efforts, and better understands how to set and define the right goals that yield the highest impact.
When a company operates with this level of openness and trust, employees have the creative freedom to set many of their own objectives and key results.
There are many benefits to this approach, but one in particular comes from granting contributors the autonomy to define the best way to achieve their own goals. Additionally, it provides each employee the flexibility to decide how to accomplish the upcoming workload, while at the same time maintaining a focus on measurable outcomes. Such measurement gives people mini goals and larger metrics to meet, which fuels productivity and motivation.
In this type of environment, employees become more engaged in the goal-setting process and buy into the initiatives they need to accomplish. This type of employee engagement is exactly what the company needs to increase motivation and productivity at every level.
Measurement Matters for Managers
Managers are responsible for efficiently moving pieces around, connecting with other teams and optimizing time spent on projects and deliverables. They can help motivate teams by showing exactly how their team’s role contributes to the overall success of the project—and company.
This is where transparency comes into play. Transparency on progress and accountability boosts productivity. Together with clear metrics and OKRs, managers can increase team participation, attention, and collaboration.
By taking this approach, leadership is supporting contributor ownership, reducing friction between departments, and creating a heightened level of clarity and individual empowerment.
Confidence builds when everyone can see what everyone else is doing and becomes part of the goal-planning process. Employees can clearly understand the impact their work has on the short- and long-term objectives and how their unique position brings value to the success of the company.
This modern approach to widespread transparency and alignment is the key to breaking down company walls and conventional silos that develop between teams.
When a company achieves this, the organization is in a better position to create more robust collaboration between functions and individuals—fostering a sense of ownership and strong company community. This cultural shift from a traditional encapsulation of information creates a well-respected sense of accountability and self-worth down to the individual level.
As teams now have spent months working with each other remotely, the same communication strategies that worked in the office don’t always apply. OKRs help teams stay aligned on goals and progress. Transparency is essential as teams must overcommunicate their workload and goals on an ongoing basis. In the months to come, the way everyone works will continue to evolve faster than in recent memory. While the future of work might seem unpredictable, the team progress bar should remain unwavering.
Vetri Vellore is founder and CEO of Ally.io, a business-to-business Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) startup that enables teams to focus, align, and achieve goals with strong employee engagement. Before founding Ally.io in 2017, Vellore co-founded Chronus Corporation, where he now sits on the board. Prior to this, he served as a product unit manager at Microsoft for 14 years. Vellore graduated from the College of Engineering Guindy, Chennai with a B.E. in Computer Science and Engineering and from the University of Washington – Michael G. Foster School of Business with an MBA