Time and again, we see that the more leaders try to manage engagement, the more disengaged their employees actually become. It’s not that employees don’t want to be engaged — many are committed and loyal soldiers who come in early, stay late and try hard in-between. But in today’s era of exhaustion, they are simply struggling to make it to the weekend. Employees are engaged, but depleted.
As a result, organizations have become hubs where people are unable to think innovatively. Bogged down in the day-to-day minutiae of work, employees don’t have the time or mental capacity to identify or focus on fixing systemic issues. They are simply going through the motions — incapable of future-based, innovative, value-creating thinking.
And so you get an abundance of organizational cultures scrambling to fix problems as they become full-blown issues, fighting “fires” with duct-tape fixes and quick workarounds instead of taking the time to address root causes of problems. It’s the perfect ecosystem for endless employee depletion.
Engagement is nothing without energy
It’s not that employee engagement is dead. Quite the opposite: employee engagement is essential, foundational and elemental to business. It is critical for building workplaces where people are dedicated, committed and willing to give discretionary effort. However, employees simply cannot put forth their best work unless they are also full of passion, resilience, vitality and enthusiasm — and these are the byproducts of energy. Engagement is necessary but insufficient. Without energy, it is simply unsustainable.
To create a sustainably engaged organizational culture, businesses need to focus on both engagement and energy — essentially, moving beyond “engagement” as we think of it today.
The customer experience is at risk
Engaged employees can supply loyalty, commitment and even discretionary effort — but if employees feel overwhelmed in their job, under-supported, exhausted and depleted, the best they can inject into the customer experience is something transactional and mechanical. The employee experience can make or break the customer experience.
The human magic required for a great customer experience happens in one way only — through an energized employee. Energy unlocks an employee’s enthusiasm, creativity, intuition, authentic warmth, vigour and verve — all ingredients for an unforgettable customer experience.
The energized employee brings not only commitment, loyalty and effort, but also passion, intensity and vitality. These qualities make all the difference in the world, because these qualities differentiate businesses from their competitors.
The secret sauce
What can leaders do to energize employees beyond engagement? It’s all about integrating neuroscience into employee engagement initiatives.
We know that when we are low on energy, the executive function of our brain suffers: that is, the part that helps us focus our attention, process information, regulate our emotions, predict outcomes, plan, prioritize duties and take action. But expose the brain to quality face-to-face conversation and high-performance hormones (dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin) are released within both parties. In fact, brain mapping shows that these ‘miracle-grow’ hormones boost creativity, amp up connection, and cut through fear and worry.
In essence, conversation deepens relationships, energizes employees and garners easier results.
Have an energy conversation
For over a decade, we’ve seen organizations use short and simple conversations to generate energy and reduce depletion in their employees’ lives.
Many managers take this one step further and have energy conversations in their team meetings. Team members ask each other, “What do you need from the rest of us to free up energy in your world?” Some of the fixes are simple and fall into the category of, “We just didn’t know that was important to you — we can totally make that happen.” Others are more systemic, and require an integrative approach from other functions or levels in the organization. But the solutions all have one thing in common: they free up energy, mind space and time for managers and employees.
Once leaders understand the vital role energy plays in fueling high performance, they get curious about how to measure it. Once you’re clear on what generates energy inside the “lived experience” of an employee (things like connection, progress, freedom, pride and meaning), a pulse check can be created that will give you a clear view of the energy levels in your organization.
Go beyond engagement
Without energy, all you get is dedicated under-performers. However, by understanding how the brain works and incorporating meaningful conversation into the corporate culture, leaders can enhance strategies for employee engagement.
As a result, you unlock passion, innovation and enthusiasm, generating true and sustainable engagement — and creating a higher-performing workforce than you ever thought possible.