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Business Growth
Apr 1, 2015

Employee Engagement Starts At The Top

Sponsored Content provided by Dallas Romanowski - Managing Partner, Cornerstone Business Advisors

I ran across a sobering statistic the other day for anyone who owns a business in the United States. In my opinion, it helps explain why many businesses struggle to get to the next level.
According to a Gallup survey, only 32.9 percent of employees felt “engaged” at their workplaces in February. At just under one-third of U.S. workers, this was the highest-monthly average for “engaged” employees in three years, according to the research firm. 
If the good news is that employee engagement has improved, it’s hardly worth celebrating. If the survey data is correct, basic math tells us that two-thirds of U.S. employees are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged.” Those terms, according to Gallup, mean that the employees surveyed lack motivation and are less likely to invest discretionary effort in organization goals (not engaged), or even worse, are unhappy and unproductive at work and liable to spread their negativity to others (actively disengaged).

These statistics might surprise some of you, but they aren’t news to me or to my partners at Cornerstone Business Advisors. Remember, that two-thirds statistic has remained basically unchanged for several years.
So the questions become, of course, why aren’t employees engaged? And what, if anything, can we do about it? Our experiences at CBA suggest there are simple answers to these questions.

Most employees who are not engaged at work respond to our 360-degree interviews with the following answers:

  1. The manager does not understand or actively support the employee’s personal vision. And without this understanding, it is difficult to align company goals with employee goals.
  2. The manager does not take time to coach the employee to become better. Some managers do hold their employees accountable, but often it’s through micromanagement and does not include coaching to help the employee develop professionally.
Traditional Performance Reviews and Appraisals Don’t Help

While most companies have a performance review process, research finds that only 10 percent to 20 percent of managers and employees find them helpful (, Gallup). The 80 percent or more of managers and employees who describe their companies’ performance management processes as ineffective describe those processes as “time consuming,” “administrative” or “no impact.” In other words, the team members don’t understand how performance reviews fit into the bigger picture – their company’s goals, their own personal goals or an overall goal to improve company culture.

For those who said the Performance Review process was effective, their number one reason was coaching. In fact, we found that high-performance organizations are more than three times likely to use coaching as part of their performance management process.

Creating a Culture of High Performance

Employee engagement isn’t something that just happens, and it can be difficult to sustain as an organization adds employees and evolves over time. To create a business culture where employees are engaged, which is essential to high performance, you must be willing to take a hard look at your organization and make changes as required. The process can be painful and time-consuming at the beginning, but it will lead to better communication, greater accountability, improvements in administrative efficiencies, and yes, a higher rate of employee engagement.

In designing Performance Culture, we established a three-part process to help managers and employees improve through continuous coaching, timely feedback and recognition. These steps include:
  1. Align goals. Your work begins with reviewing you company’s goals and aligning them with your employees’ goals. A company’s goals typically include its mission, vision, core values and sales targets. Your employees’ goals need to be considered on an individual basis, and typically include personal vision, workplace satisfaction, performance objectives, and desired workplace behavior.
  2. Coach employees. After your organization has gone through the process of aligning goals, the next step is to develop, or redevelop, an internal or external coaching program that meets the needs of your employees. The process begins with earning the will of your team by understanding what’s important to your employees and leading by example. Once you’ve earned the will of your team, it’s easier to communicate expectations and hold team members accountable for results. As a coach, you will need to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each employee and define critical success factors for his or her development. Unfortunately many managers or employees have not been properly coached or mentored so it may be difficult to do this effectively without the help of a business coach.
  3. Manage performance. A well-defined coaching process with clear expectations will remove much of the stress and time-consuming work associated with employee reviews, which are now part of your ongoing performance management process instead of a single, annual event. This new process will include evaluating employees’ past performance based on feedback from managers, peers and the employees themselves (360-degree feedback). It will also reward and recognize star performers for their success in meeting and exceeding formal benchmarks, which are shared with all employees on a regular basis. This transparency allows you to identify and recognize your stars in a way that eliminates feelings of favoritism or personal biases. It also allows you to assess the overall performance of teams, not just individuals. Boosting employee engagement takes work, but you’ll get as much out of the process as you put into it. Engaged employees are those who see themselves as integral to the success of your business. They understand that you are just as interested in their personal success. These are the employees who will drive revenue and growth, develop innovative products and services, and fill leadership roles at your company in the future.

The Cornerstone Business Advisors team includes former C-Level executives, successful entrepreneurs and advisors who offer unmatched experience in delivering advanced, custom-tailored, results-oriented solutions for business leaders. Cornerstone has worked with hundreds of companies that range from fast-growth start-ups to Fortune 500 corporations. It developed the Performance Culture System™ to help clients implement best practices and drive high performance throughout their organization. For more information, visit or email [email protected].

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