Ruth Ross, Speaker, Author, Engagement Evangelist

Most times, when we hear the word engagement we immediately travel to that exciting moment when two people come together and pledge love, dedication and the remainder of their lives together. But engagement is more than the magical moment that occurs between two people. Engagement is the act of pledging yourself and dedicating yourself not just to a person, but also to a mission, a vision and a purpose. It can occur at an exquisite level between your heart and soul and career. We all desire to feel highly connected with what we do.

Engagement is what motivates people not only to feel dedicated to their job and their life, but also to feel rewarded by what they do and how they do it. It pushes people to look at things differently and go above and beyond, not because they have to but because they want to.

Engagement is buying in, going all in, remaining within, and contributing to the passion and mission of the company. It is what separates the striving companies from the thriving companies, the happy folks from the unhappy ones, the smiles from the frowns, and the success stories from the shattered dreams.

The companies that get it right understand that there is an absolute bottom line return on investment when it comes to employee engagement. As my value chain illustrates below, it all starts with having employees who are engaged and the positive impact that has on themselves, your customers and shareholders. 

Did you know that a fully engaged employee is actually earning 120% of what you pay them annually? Are you aware that a disengaged employee is only earning 60% of their salary? Why would you knowingly waste money on this group of employees? Here’s another example of bad math. In a survey of global CEO’s that was conducted in 2014 they were asked to name their top three critical business imperatives that are facing their organizations. 80% of the CEO’s cited employee engagement as one of their top three concerns. The bad math comes in when the follow up question asked, “Of those of you who said you were concerned about employee engagement, how many of you have a strategy in place to address this issue?” That number dropped to only 25%. So you know it’s a problem, but it’s not worth your time to do anything about it?

The most successful senior leaders understand the ROI of engagement and recognize that it will be next to impossible to achieve their goals without a fully committed and engaged workforce. They make employee engagement a top priority, particularly in today’s tough business environment. They know that having a high performing workforce is essential for growth and survival. They treat employees as valuable people with skills rather than people with valuable skills.

I’ve had the opportunity to speak with thousands of employees and business leaders at companies with high engagement about their culture. One question I always ask is what word would you use to describe your culture, and the one I heard the most often was ‘magical.’ Soon I had clarity around the five things that all employees want from their organizations in order to achieve the MAGIC of engagement. 

Here are the top five value-drivers employees want from their employers:

  1. Meaning: Employees today want to work for a company that has meaning and a purpose they believe in. It’s hard to get behind a vision you don’t believe in. For example at TOMS, for every pair of shoes you buy the company donates a pair to someone in need. Warby Parker does the same thing with glasses. Think about all the people that work for a non-profit, which at times sacrifices money for fulfilling their passion.
  2. Alignment: If your employees don’t know where you are going how can they go on the journey with you? Each of us wants to understand where we fit in to the bigger picture. Companies that spend the time to educate their employees on the company’s vision, mission, strategy, goals and competitive landscape have much higher engagement. Think about some of the recent champions of sports such as the Golden State Warriors, New England Patriots or Kansas City Royals. What did they all had in common? Every member of the team was aligned with the same goal.
  3. Growth: As a baby boomer, when I entered the workforce there was a career ladder that one aspired to climb to move from one level to another. Thankfully at some point organizations got smart and kicked the legs out from the ladder and moved to more of a philosophy of building a portfolio of skills. Moving laterally became a plus not something negative. Employees today want to experience lots of different things as they learn and grow.
  4. Input: We all have a voice and there’s nothing worse than feeling like you are being silenced in the workplace. Employees today prefer two-way communication and an opportunity to provide input. Who knows your customers better than the people dealing directly with them? If that were indeed the case, then why wouldn’t you want to know what they are hearing about your business and how you can make it better?
  5. Context: It is so important to always tell people the ‘why behind the what’ if you want them to travel with you on the journey. When you ask a child to do something the first thing they ask you is why? It’s no different in the workplace.  We all want to understand the reason behind the decision or request so we can operate from a position of strength and clarity.

The little secret about engagement is that it is not rocket science. It’s not about programs and perks or throwing money at ineffective solutions. It’s about treating people with respect and connecting with them on an individual level. That is how you make your workplace magical.

About the Author

Ruth K. Ross is a speaker, author and engagement evangelist. After a successful 30-year career as a strategic human resources executive with top FORTUNE 100 companies, Ruth Ross started her own company in San Francisco to focus on the critical intersection where people and process fuse together in organizations. The outpouring of requests from C-suite executives, middle management and service professionals for her thought leadership on engagement validated her belief that disengagement is robbing people of their passions and cutting deeply into corporate profitability. Her recent book, “Coming Alive: The Journey to Reengage Your Life and Career,” is based on Ross’ own experiences and research, exploring the epidemic of employee disengagement in Corporate America. She also is frequently invited to speak at industry conferences and organizations on this topic. Learn more about her book, speaking topics, consulting services, upcoming events and blog at Follow at @ruthkross.


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