Organizations spend huge sums each year measuring employee engagement and then attempting to design strategies to increase it. So what gets employees to commit, to give discretionary time and energy, to throw themselves whole heartedly into their work? What we are really talking about is motivation, or what Frederick Herzberg defined years ago as psychological commitment. A review of current research by our colleague Ken Nowack, Ph.D. of Envisia Learning, reveals that the most important factor in employee engagement and satisfaction is based on the relationship they have with the leaders of their organization.
Leadership is key and especially impactful when the leader is the immediate boss as can be seen in the following:
- 80% of turnover is directly related to unsatisfactory relationship with one’s boss. (Saratoga Institute)
- The number one reason people leave their jobs is because of a “bad boss.” (Gallup Organization)
- Poorly managed work groups are on average 50% less productive and 44% less profitable than well managed ones. (Gallup Organization)
This is where emotional intelligence and diversity play a role. Leaders who exhibit emotional intelligence have the skills to develop positive and productive relationships with their wide range of employees and those relationships are the fundamental factor in gaining commitment. The four components of Emotional Intelligence & Diversity can be seen at work in the behavior of effective leaders.
- Affirmative Introspection Self-awareness, the ability to acknowledge one’s strengths and weaknesses and work on self-improvement enable a leader to be approachable and open to feedback and to model learning and growth. Rather than taking a “that’s just how I am” stance, a leader who is introspective can admit, as one of our clients did, “If my behavior is problematic for others, it becomes problematic for me.”
- Self-Governance Effective leaders engage people because they are able to manage emotions rather than be controlled by them. They are not stress carriers who explode and vent, rather they acknowledge their feelings and those of their employees. They understand the losses people experience when there is change and they help them get through these rough times without writing them off as resistors. Because they maintain their cool, they help employees feel secure in times of turmoil.
- Intercultural Literacy Leaders develop strong positive relationships with employees because they can “read” them accurately. They understand the reasons for their behavior and feelings and can respond with empathy. A powerful bond is forged when employees have the sense that their leader gets them and can respond with compassion.
- Social Architecting Finally, leaders with emotional intelligence know how to build inclusive environments where people can blossom. They give honest feedback in helpful ways and deal with problems and conflicts effectively. They involve people so they feel a responsibility to building their own work climate. Most importantly, they develop inclusion through their own welcoming behavior and through the organizational policies and practices they institute.
The relationship leaders build with employees is key to engagement and leaders with emotional intelligence have what it takes to build powerfully good ones.