Here's a "glass is half full/half empty" conundrum. Last fall, Gallup reported that the number of engaged employees in the U.S. rose to 34% "tying its highest level since Gallup began reporting the national figure in 2000."
While we should always applaud progress, we still need to consider the other side: Gallup also reported that 13% are "actively disengaged" and 53% are in the "not engaged" category.
Clearly, employers still have work to do. And luckily, plenty of reasons exist for organizations to make the effort. Gallup notes, "Compared with business units in the bottom quartile, those in the top quartile of engagement realize substantially better customer engagement, higher productivity, better retention, fewer accidents, and 21% higher profitability. Engaged workers also report better health outcomes."
While there are many ways to engage employees, this blog is built on the mentoring concept, so we thought it would make sense to discuss how mentoring can help boost engagement.
But before we can speak to that, we need to understand what employee engagement is. Gallup, in its polling efforts, describes employee engagement as "those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace."
While on the right track, that's a simplistic definition, so we invited Sri Chellappa, the president of Engagedly, to sit down with us for a deeper dive. Engagedly specializes in employee engagement and performance.
Define employee engagement.
Sri Chellappa: Our model of employee engagement involves three different facets. Note: when I say it's 'our model', I don't mean we invented it; it's simply the model we subscribe to. Other organizations and researchers use this model as well.
Here are the three facets:
1. Engagement with the organization. Do the employees care about the organization? Are they committed to the mission?
2. Engagement with the manager. Does the employee feel connected to the manager? Does the manager listen to the employee? Does the employee feel the manager provides clear directions and expectations? Can the employee go to their manager and talk to them about challenges and concerns? Does the employee feel the manager cares for them as a person—not just for their overall well-being, but also their career development and growth? Out of the three facets, we consider this one to be the most important.
3. Engagement with the job. We're talking about the actual work. Do the employees like what they do in their jobs? Do they enjoy the day-to-day tasks and activities overall?
From there, you can see how different scenarios might play out. For example, an employee might feel engaged with their manager, but they might not like their actual day-to-day work. Or they might feel engaged with the organization's mission, but they might not like their manager. And so forth.
When these facets are out of whack, employee engagement can plummet.
How can mentoring boost employee engagement?
Sri Chellappa: The beauty of an effective mentoring program is that it can enhance all three facets of employee engagement—and often at the same time.
1. Engagement with the organization. An organization that offers mentoring shows its commitment to its employees, which is a great way to foster positive feelings in employees when they think about the organization.
2. Engagement with the manager. While the mentoring relationship doesn't replace the relationship an employee has with their manager, the mentoring relationship can help the employee better navigate the relationship.
For example, if the employee has a strained relationship with their manager, the employee can discuss those concerns with their mentor without fear of repercussions or consequences, since it's a confidential relationship. Plus, the mentor might have some objective insights to help the employee see the managerial relationship in a new way.
Now, I'm not suggesting a mentoring relationship will solve all issues between a manager and an employee. But the mentor can be another resource for the employee—a person who will listen to the employee and care about them as they work through these issues.
3. Engagement with the job. An effective mentoring relationship helps the employee see their work in a different light—one that's often more realistic. For example, maybe the employee is frustrated with the mundane nature of certain day-to-day tasks, but perhaps through discussions with the mentor, the employee begins to see the bigger picture—how these mundane tasks serve as important stepping stones in their career.
Or in the case where the employee really does feel bored by the job, the mentor might be able to help the employee find the confidence/courage to advocate for more fulfilling work. The mentor and mentee might do some role-playing where the employee practices asking their manager for more responsibilities.
Bottom line: At Engagedly, we see mentoring as an excellent strategy to help boost engagement among employees atall levels. Senior employees typically mentor junior employees, but as Management Mentors has talked about numerous times, mentors get just as much out of the mentoring process as mentees—so mentoring can truly boost engagement at every level, making it a win-win for the organization.
Thanks, Sri! Join us next week for the second part of this discussion where Sri talks about the biggest mistakes he sees organizations making when it comes to employee engagement.