When work engagement stats are brought up inside a company, employee engagement levels are typically correlated to the impact engagement has on retention, employee productivity, minimized sick days, overall team morale, and how it impacts a company’s culture.
Naturally, when most executives learn about the importance of monitoring and improving engagement they typically invest in these services for their employees. They want to know their team’s engagement score and work on pursuing activities that can improve their engagement.
But what about measuring engagement for the executives?
This may seem like an odd thing to measure for an executive because, as an executive, you would naturally think that your fellow executives aren’t going anywhere (especially if they are the founder or CEO). Furthermore, often their compensation is tied to their performance so they are economically incentivized to perform at their best.
The issue with this train of thought is that it fails to properly understand what engagement is. So much research has used engagement and its downstream effects to show how it impacts the bottom line. As there are fewer people at the top of an organizational chart and more people lower in the hierarchy, you might think that this is the most cost-effective way to apply engagement because it would directly affect the greatest number of people.
Therefore, it would make sense that when executives learn about this research, they are interested in measuring it for those employees that work for them and are less interested in measuring it for themselves–executives should have no economic reason to rack up sick days, be less productive, or leave.
But this is simply not the case. Instead, this is a blind spot for executives! I’ll explain more below, but first, let’s take it up a level.
What is engagement?
Engagement is the culmination of emotional attachment, energy, camaraderie, and work fulfillment employees (including executives!) have at work. Executives are employees too!
I run an executive Horizontal Mentorship program where I pair two executives from different companies (and typically industries) together for Horizontal Mentorship. If you aren’t familiar, Horizontal Mentorship flips the script on classic mentorship programs by creating mutually beneficial mentor partnerships instead of hierarchical, top-down mentor-mentee relationships. I also run corporate Horizontal Mentor programs where I pair employees within a company together for mentorship.
When I started the first executive mentor program, I made a mistake when sending out the initial assessment. I accidentally forgot to take off the engagement questions that are originally meant for the corporate Horizontal Mentor programs that I run.
I assumed that executives didn’t need to measure their engagement and that it would just take extra time on their assessment. But, by the time I realized my mistake, it was too late and the executives had taken the assessment in its entirety. They were good sports about the length of the assessment, so I might have been wrong twice in one assessment!
When it came time to collect the follow-up data after 6 months of their Horizontal Mentor relationship, I figured if we already had the original assessment with the engagement questions, we might as well reassess with those exact same questions.
Here is what I learned:
The average executive improved their engagement score by 5% in 6 months!
This is fascinating for a variety of reasons. First, it shows that work engagement for executives is malleable, just like other employees. When we break down engagement into its components (emotional attachment, energy, camaraderie, and work fulfillment), it is clear how an executive can be impacted by these factors. Now let’s look at each component in a bit more detail.
Emotional Attachment: We learned that executives, when talking with the same people, doing similar actions, and pursuing similar outcomes – over time – can reduce their emotional attachment to what they are working on.
Energy: We learned that executives need a break as well. When somebody spends too much time working on one thing and talking to the same people, they are eventually going to burn out unless something changes.
Camaraderie: We learned that executives need new, fresh perspectives in their world and if they aren’t seeking that out, they can’t appreciate the relationships they have at their own company.
Work Fulfillment: We learned that work becomes less fulfilling when executives are stuck in their own echo chamber, but becomes more fulfilling when they can learn about what somebody outside of their network (that they can relate to) is going through.
Second, it highlights how easy it is for an executive to get stuck. When first entering this executive Horizontal Mentorship program, their engagement scores weren’t alarming, but clearly there was another gear these executives simply weren’t hitting before their mentor experience.
Third, it demonstrates the need, and importance, for executives to have somebody that can see the forest from the trees and help them get outside of their bubble. Learning another’s perspective clearly sheds light on how executives can improve in their own world and gives them invaluable perspective.
If you are an executive reading this article, you might be able to relate to some of the points brought up about engagement. You might feel that you are losing the emotional attachment to your work, starting to feel burnt out, appreciating those you work with less, or just not finding your work as fulfilling as you used to.
If you can relate to any of those common feelings, that is great as that means you can start the process of doing something about it. And if those feelings seem alien to you, then that is normal as well. Most of the executives in our executive Horizontal Mentorship program never mentioned concerns with their engagement at work, but they showed improved engagement scores as well!
The point is that executives should absolutely be monitoring their own engagement levels. Engagement, for executives, doesn’t typically become a conscious concern until it gets really bad. This is because of all of the economic incentives companies have for performance – e.g. “if I am making more money or creating more value for my shares of stock in the company then I can push through this without any help.”
Everyone faces ebbs and flows of their engagement at work, and the engagement of executives is especially important because how executives treat their coworkers will ripple outward and impact the engagement of everyone they interact with.
These engagement levels should be monitored and actions should be taken to enhance engagement because ignoring them only leads to work (and eventually personal life) getting worse.