Few companies have found the holy grail of management: High Employee Engagement. In the average company, about 32 percent of employees are actively engaged in their work, and about 20 percent actively disrupt operations. But for those who figure it out, the rewards are unmistakable. Companies who score at the top quartile of employee engagement outperform those in the bottom quartile on virtually every measure of success. The Gallup Organization finds the gap in performance between top and bottom quartile companies varies from a low of ten to a high of seventy percentage points depending on what dimension of performance is studied. Here is a sampling of those performance gaps.
- Customer Loyalty 10%
- Productivity 20%
- Profitability 21%
- Product Quality 40%
- Safety 70%
Fortunately, you don’t have to be a business icon to master the principles of employee engagement. You just have to observe what God does with Adam, and Eve, in Genesis. Almost everything we have learned about employee engagement is evident in the first three chapters of the Bible. Even if you don’t regard the Bible as authoritatively as I do, you will have to admit that it is all right there.
In the opening scenes of history, God is busy working and enjoying everything He produces. We meet man, who is made in God’s image, as he is given the charge of caring for the garden and taking dominion over creation. Man was made to work and to enjoy it. People are proud of their work, and that pride is part of a virtuous cycle that energizes us to keep going. In contrast, people who aren’t productive often get caught up in a vicious cycle of learned helplessness, disengagement, and depression.
When God spoke, heavenly bodies formed, water gathered, and life sprang into existence. When people try, they need to see results. When people try and see that their efforts have little effect, they become hopeless – even despondent.
Meaning motivates. In a recent survey conducted by ServiceNow, almost twice as many workers say they would ask their boss for more meaningful work (61%) than ask for a raise (34%), but as I said, this is old news.
After building galactic systems that interact at the cosmic, biologic, and nuclear levels, God hands off His creation to Adam. He charges Adam with stewarding the earth and all its resources, creating society, and carrying His image for eternity. In management lingo we call that a highly “enriched job” – it is work that is meaningful, complex, and challenging. I am hard-pressed to find anything more enriching than Adam and Eve’s work.
The Millennial generation is known for their unabashed desire for challenging work, but experts have long preached the motivational value of challenging work. From birth, people strive to learn new things, master skills, compete, test their mettle, and overcome. Adam had all these challenges and the great reward of personal growth it produced.
To Adam, God gives Eve as his capable helper. She is his companion in every way, supplying Adam with love, connection, advice, and strength. Yet, she is not Adam’s only companion. God, walks with and mentors Adam in his work daily. In this, we see the need for love, trust, and connection with co-laborers. Work that is unconnected with others is empty, while work performed with and for others engages the head, heart, and hands of people.
I am fascinated, and encouraged, that leadership truths uncovered by men through years of formal research can be found in just the first three chapters of the Bible! Within these Biblical lessons on employee engagement, we derive other leadership precepts:
1. Support productivity so people feel energized and enthusiastic about their work.
2. Ensure workers see the results of their effort.
3. Design jobs to involve meaningful work, require problem solving, and promote learning.
4. Challenge people with ambitious goals.
5. Manage by walking about.
6. Encourage genuine, caring, supportive relationships in the workplace.
7. Build teams of people who spur on one another.
The implications of this revelation are profound. It tells us that man is made to work, that our Creator cares deeply about our day-to day-work, and that God intends for our work to be productive and gratifying. It says that the labor of leading, the labor of creating, and the producing is holy, and that those who labor reflect God’s own image as they work. And it suggests that God delights in the things we create, and in the services we render for one another. Since God delights in our work, then we should too.
What do you think your business would look like if your team embraced these truths?
James K. Harter, Ph.D., Gallup Frank L. Schmidt, Ph.D., University Of Iowa, Sangeeta Agrawal, M.S.. Gallup Stephanie K. Plowman, M.A., Gallup Anthony Blue, M.A., Gallup “The Relationship Between Engagement at Work and Organizational Outcomes 2016 Q12 Meta-Analysis” Gallup Organization 2018.