As organizations, we continually face change, and now, more than ever, leaders deal with unpredictable and unprecedented obstacles on a daily basis. These conundrums arise internally and externally and impact us financially, operationally and culturally.

Achieving organizational success, whether by generating alpha for investors or manufacturing widgets for consumers, is difficult, and understanding how strong organizations overcome the inherent obstacles associated with success is a key to unlocking organizational clarity.

People are our greatest asset. Our people develop our products, implement our strategic plans and execute on our promises to customers. In order to navigate a chaotic marketplace, our people’s level of engagement to our operation’s strategy and culture is paramount. An engaged workforce advances our strategic vision rather than maintaining the status quo. In the worst cases, a disengaged workforce drags down morale and impairs operational effectiveness. Once we understand what employee engagement is and how it affects any organization, we must institute key performance indicators (KPI’s), identify improvement levers and implement appropriate solutions to optimize organizational performance.

Employee engagement describes the relationship between an organization and its employees. In its simplest form, we can think of employee engagement as the buy-in of an employee to an organization’s leadership, vision and values. This buy-in results from employee positivity toward the five elements of engagement: (1) pride, (2) optimism, (3) inspiration, (4) satisfaction, and (5) effort.

The relationship between an individual and the organization, as measured through the individual’s heightened capacity towards the five elements, facilitates growth of both entities. This positivity allows for an exchange of ideas, skills and experiences that allow both to prosper. Conversely, a poor relationship does far more damage to the organization.

The other key to engagement is their experience of both meaning and progress. Employees that believe in the “why” statement of an organization (its overarching mission and why it does what it does) experience meaningful connection to the brand and its purpose. Equally, those who experience progress in their roles ( via promotion, positive feedback, additional responsibilities and greater access to senior leadership and decision making) self-identify as engaged employees. Interestingly enough, compensation increases alone and in the absence of meaning or progress indicators can actually backfire and make an employee feel bought and not necessarily valued, and can actually result in decreased engagement and productivity.

A disengaged employee will maintain the status quo, cut corners to achieve a minimal level of effort, or in the worst case, actively speak out against the organization and its practices. In each of these scenarios, the organization can incur poor financial and operational outcomes, which can actualize as a decline in customer service, safety conditions and equipment maintenance.

These ideas and outcomes are not hypothetical: disengaged employees are pervasive across industries and job markets. According to Gallup, a staggering 87% of all employees are not engaged with their organization. Disengaged workers have more than just an effect on group attitude and sentiment. Their attitudes and actions have real effects on safety, productivity and profitability.

A single employee’s level of engagement directly impacts the overall sentiment of all employees within a group. Research shows that individual interactions have wide-spanning effects within networks, and the strength of negative interactions is disproportionately stronger than positive interactions. Employees who are active detractors, even if representing a small portion of their overall group, have the ability to bring down the attitude of a population.

It should come as no surprise that the relationship between a company and its workers has a significant impact on its bottom line, and it’s important to learn how we can accurately measure and diagnose lapses in that relationship to ensure our employees are positively impacting and representing our companies.

To learn about our research on capturing attention and creating cohesive motivation in the workplace, download our white paper, Closing the Employee Engagement Gap at Bermuda Clarity Institute’s website at www.clarity.bm.