The Critical Link Between Employee Engagement and Performance

Performance drives engagement

Want to improve your organization’s workforce performance? A great place to start is with employee engagement.

The challenge – how do you get your employees highly engaged, or to start – move them from disengaged to engaged?

In the drive to improve employee performance and workforce outcomes, the signs are everywhere:

  • Gallup reports that “employees who are engaged are 27% more likely to report ‘excellent’ performance” than non-engaged employees.
  • The Engagement Institute states that “disengaged employees cost organizations between $450 and $550 billion annually.”
  • Mercer reports “unplanned or unscheduled absences cause the highest net loss (19%) of productivity per day or almost 9% of payroll.”

Clearly, highly engaged employees are critical to building and maintaining a high-performing workforce.

Federal Agency Performance Challenges

While the importance of engaged employees is evident, federal agencies have their own set of unique challenges that exacerbate the problem, including the fact that the federal government has some of the most disengaged workers. In the United States, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that “the federal absenteeism rate is higher (4.1%) than almost all other sectors.” Further evidence comes from Modern Survey, which reports that “the industries with the most disengaged workers are hospitality, government and light manufacturing.” 

In addition, most agencies are faced with significant budget cuts or at least budget challenges. A sharp outcome of the new OMB workforce reform mandates is that agencies should be positioned and organized to do more and realize their missions with less – fewer people, fewer resources and less money.

Even as the latest Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) shows a slight improvement in employee engagement across U.S. federal agencies, engagement is not where it needs to be. For example, according to Mark Meadows, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Subcommittee Chairman:

  • “only 33% of federal workers agreed with the statement that promotions in their work unit are based on merit
  • 28 percent of the employees said that the necessary steps are taken to deal with poor performers
  • only 21 percent of employees across the government said that pay raises depend on how well the employees perform their jobs.”

In Australia, as reported by the Canberra Times, “just 68 per cent of Australian government employees said their job provided them with a sense of personal accomplishment.”


Complimentary Blueprint -> Improving your Agency’s Employee Engagement — Download


Performance – The Foundation of Engagement

In any industry — if engagement is the target outcome…what is the driver? And how can it be achieved in this era of budget restraint, personnel downsizing and fewer resources overall?

Performance – directed by performance management – is the driver, and both public and private organizations would be wise to make engagement a key focus of their efforts to boost engagement.

Creelman Research identifies 5 relevant elements of employee engagement that provide a roadmap:

  1. Clarity: are your goals clear?

Clearly identifying and communicating goals for individuals helps them understand exactly where their time and energy should be spent. This eliminates extraneous tasks and activities that            can otherwise distract employees from performing necessary work. Managers need to establish these goals, and importantly, they should align with your organization’s goals, mission and                purpose.

  1. Support: do employees have the support they need to reach your objectives?

Ongoing engagement should ensure that employees are confident they have the support from their manager and from the organization. This includes not only necessary resources, but the direct support of the employee’s manager, with an understanding that all levels of the organization are in sync with objective of achieving the ultimate mission and goals.

  1. Fit: do jobs match skill sets?

The most knowledgeable and skilled employees will not be put to their best use if they are not in the position that matches their skills and competencies. Organizations are best served when they have a clear understanding of each employee’s skills, which can then be matched with job openings and needs within the organization.

  1. Feedback: do employees regularly receive useful feedback?

Employee feedback is central to the employee’s performance, as well as their personal and professional growth. Numerous studies indicate that employees desire ongoing, regular feedback. Clear, detailed feedback that relates directly to the employee’s performance and how that impacts his or her goals and the organization’s goals will have the most powerful effect.

  1. Development: are employees given opportunities to develop?

By providing opportunities for employees to learn, develop and improve, employees will feel more empowered, more in control of their career and subsequently better aligned with the goals of the organization. All this will lead to more engaged and more productive employees, performing at a high level.

A Proven Path to Improved Engagement and Performance

Particularly in the federal space, the adoption rate of performance management systems is low, less than 15%. There are multiple reasons why adoption has been slow, including the lack of availability of robust systems, security concerns and unique agency needs that have been difficult to accommodate, such as agency-specific forms.

This slow rate of adoption exacerbates talent challenges for agencies, making it even more difficult to compete for talent, retain millennials and address an aging workforce.

But the previous impediments for federal agencies and others to adopt performance management technology have been eliminated. The key areas where performance management technology has evolved to make it viable for government agencies and others include:

  • Incremental: it’s no longer all or nothing – small steps with significant wins and outcomes can be achieved quickly, with data providing new operational and executive insights.
  • Security: systems that meet today’s stringent security requirements (including government’s) are now readily available.
  • Cloud: robust, cloud-based systems are now available.
  • Agile: today’s modern systems are agile and allow for agile implementation and adoption.
  • Low risk and low cost: because of their incremental and agile capabilities, the risk and cost to implement systems to boost engagement and improve performance are low.
  • High success rates: the success rates for implementing performance management systems and boosting workforce performance are high.

Organizational transformation

With automation and incremental implementation, organizations can quickly achieve significant wins that lead to beneficial changes for your organization. As you proceed on this journey with more and more wins across the board, the final phase of this data-driven performance management journey is true organizational transformation. With data in hand, you can begin to make changes within your workforce to address the underlying causes of the problems while better capitalizing on efficiencies and successes.

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