You know the drill … into the office to get the day started. You are beset by distractions, dramas and issues, all of which keep you away from the important work that is (or should be) your focus. Yet, each and every day you work intensely and return home drained, catching up into the evening on emails that you missed or responses that need attention. In amongst all this, there is a lingering sense that the work that we do continues to mount and that our daily efforts amount to little.

Sound familiar?

A 2013 Gallup report indicated that just 30% of American employees feel engaged with the work that they perform. This extends across the entire employee base – which means that your top executives and even your leadership team are feeling the strain. In fact, they’re running on empty.

To understand how leaders at all levels can address this challenge, Harvard Business Review, in conjunction with The Energy Project, conducted a survey of more than 12,000 mostly white-collar employees across a range of industries. The results were surprising – and enlightening – identifying four core needs that when met, vastly improve employee morale and performance:

  • Physical: We respond well to opportunities to regularly renew and recharge at work. This means a physical break of some kind.
  • Emotional: Feeling valued and appreciated is far from a “soft skill”, it’s a powerful motivator.
  • Mental: The opportunity to be removed from distraction helps employees focus and achieve tasks and through this gain a sense of satisfaction.
  • Spiritual: Connecting your work to a higher purpose – beyond oneself – also has a powerful impact on employees.

Now, it’s easy to dismiss employee engagement as a soft metric, but research indicates that there is a strong correlation between business profitability, performance and employee engagement:

In a 2012 meta-analysis of 263 research studies across 192 companies, Gallup found that companies in the top quartile for engaged employees, compared with the bottom quartile, had 22% higher profitability, 10% higher customer ratings, 28% less theft and 48% fewer safety incidents.

As a leader, there is an even greater imperative to address employee engagement – for while some of the aspects that impact engagement are cultural or organizational, there is one value that is under the direct control of a leader – and that is the ability to make an employee feel valued.

Feeling cared for by one’s supervisor has a more significant impact on people’s sense of trust and safety than any other behavior by a leader. Employees who say they have more supportive supervisors are 1.3 times as likely to stay with the organization and are 67% more engaged.

Nina nets it out: Imagine if every leader in your organization had a key care indicator – a metric that assessed the health of each team based on employee engagement. I have a feeling that this would be transformative – and that it would work from the top-down as well as from the bottom-up. It would mean that far from “running on empty”, your teams would be powering ahead with purpose. And that can only be a good thing for us all.

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