Participation, It’s Not The Same As Engagement

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Disengaged Employees

One of the hottest topics in Human Resources, Wellness and Employee Development is Engagement. It’s sounds like a nice word but why is it so important? We’ve all heard managers say, “I pay my employees to ‘do their job’. They’re not children so I shouldn’t have to ‘hold their hand’. As long as they show up and put in the hours what do I care?”

Well, as a manager you should care A LOT because it’s costing you tons of money and more! The current global workforce is said to be only 15% engaged (Gallup). In the US, it’s slightly better at 30% engaged. That means, in the US, 70% of the workforce is NOT engaged.

Why should managers care? Well, let’s say your organization has 100 employees but only 30 actually do any work. Would you be willing to pay 70 salaries for little to no contributions? Let’s re-state this… what if each of your 100 employees only did about 2 hours of “real” work per day. How would you feel about that? That’s what happens when people aren’t engaged.

For the Wellness Industry, or for those purchasing wellness products, a lot of emphasis is placed on participation. One reason is because we falsely assume if people are using the program then they’re engaged at work. For example, What percent of employees completed the Wellness Survey? What percent had the “voluntary” evaluation where if they didn’t they’d be fined? What percent committed to a 30-day “eat healthy” or “step” challenge?

Even when we see 80-90% participation in such programs our employees are still disengaged with their work. How can that be? We provided the programs and people did them. They must be engaged if they’re doing the programs, right? WRONG.

Participating in programs and activities at work is completely different than being passionate, excited, deeply interested and engrossed in your work. When a person is fully committed to their job and the organization at an intellectual and more importantly, an emotional level, THAT is engaged.

Emotionally committed, at work? This is business, not a relationship. WRONG, again. If you’re a member of the human species then you’re emotional. If you’re working with other people then you’re in a relationship too. It’s obviously not romantic but it is most certainly emotional. Emotions are what drive our behavior more than anything else. The behavior here is engagement or lack thereof due to unhealthy or not-so-great relationships.

As a manager, the more you can do to connect, as a person, with your employees, the stronger your relationships will become and the more emotionally invested you ALL will be. By strengthening your relationships you’ll be showing your employees that you really do care about them and value who they are and what they contribute to the overall effort.

Afterall, they’re your employee and a big part of why they were hired is because there was some kind of subconscious (or conscious) bonding happening during the interview process. So, now it’s time to nurture that relationship because like exercise, if you don’t practice it often you’ll lose it. And then not only will you have an engagement issue but also a retention problem too.

People have a basic need to feel loved and like they belong. If we don’t feel heard or valued then we don’t feel loved. And if someone doesn’t feel loved then why would they ever extend themselves and become passionate and committed to the cause much less truly emotionally invested in their job or the organization. By holding back they’re also protecting themselves from pain…. it’s not physical pain, it’s emotional. When a manager doesn’t value his/her employee it hurts them and it’s real and it’ll show in their behavior.

The next time you’re thinking about your workforce and why they’re not engaged even though they show up, participate in happy hours, birthday celebrations, surveys and challenges, perhaps it’s time to ask yourself how well connected you and your staff really are, as people first.

A little bit of sincere interest in others and sharing who you are can go a long way in helping people engage. Heck, if you’re company truly values its employees and they feel it you can probably even reduce salaries by 10-15% because more often than not a person will forego money for happiness… and they’ll work harder too! Imagine that!

– Kevin

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My Mission To Help Balance Health & Wellness

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Let’s take a moment and think about your health or that of your organization. What does “health” really mean? More often than not, when people say “health” they’re primarily thinking Physical Health.

We all know health is more than just physical. I believe there are four main areas of health which, when nurtured, will support overall wellness and well-being. Many sources claim three primary areas: Physical, Mental and Spiritual but I believe this three-legged approach neglects the key area of Emotional Health by grouping it within Mental Health.

Now, if you’re ready, I’m going to offer an approach to Wellness from a rather different angle and if it makes sense to you then together we’ll have a strong likelihood of improving your wellness and perhaps a lot of other people too!

Below are the definitions I choose for the four primary areas of health AND in order of importance or how they might be prioritized.

  • Emotional Health – The ability to give and receive love, connection, belonging. This is different than Emotional Intelligence – the ability to manage one’s emotions and feelings.

Often Emotional Health is included in Mental Health but as you can see from the definition below, Mental Health is not just about being “crazy” or “unstable”.

  • Mental Health – The ability to focus, think clearly, concentrate, and stay on task. This is not to be confused with Mental Illness – the significant impairment of an individual’s cognitive, affective or relational abilities.

Only a small percentage of the population actually struggles with Mental Illness yet every single person could benefit from nurturing their Mental Health. In other words, not everyone is schizophrenic, psychotic or suffers from multiple personality disorder but anyone can be stressed out, overworked, overwhelmed or burned out at any given time and that is what affects your Mental Health. This is why taking a break to “clear your mind” is so important throughout the day.

  • Physical Health – The ability to execute our daily activities without undue fatigue or physical stress. Similar to the Mental Health definition above, most people are not ill or suffering from a disease such as cardiovascular, cancer or diabetes. However, every person would benefit from daily hydration, good nutrition, exercise and rest. See, it’s pretty simple really!

The primary reason Physical Health is not first is because most people are actually doing just fine. Sure, we could all lose a few pounds, exercise and sleep more and eat more vegetables but in the whole scheme of things, most of us ARE “walking and talking” and able to go about our day. Our basic needs for physical existence ARE being met albeit maybe not fully optimized.

  • Spiritual Health – The ability to establish peace and harmony in our lives and understand our purpose.Often times, spirituality is equated to religion/religious. I believe that definition discriminates against those who are not religious, don’t believe in God or simply differ in their religious views. To nurture one’s purpose can fill your spirit.

If your purpose is to serve God then that is how you achieve Spiritual Health. Someone else my view their purpose as raising their family or their work. And purpose need not be something so grand. It could be as simple as fulfilling “your purpose for today” such as getting the car fixed or finishing a report.

Four Health Components of Wellness
Wellness Wheels – Balanced

Just like the four wheels of a car, if you only inflate or over-inflate one your car won’t drive well. Therefore, in order to nurture our overall well-being we need to nurture ALL FOUR components of health and not just one such as Physical Health.

Given how familiar people are with Physical and Mental Health and how “controversial” Spiritual Health can still be, my primary focus is on Emotional Health. Plus, I believe it is the most neglected and perhaps the most important component to achieving overall well-being. Why? Well, because our state of Emotional Health is the primary driver of our behaviors. (This may be a very new idea for many of you so maybe just take your time and think about it for a bit.)

In the Wellness Industry and life in general, we regularly speak about Behavior Change. What is it? How do we stick to it? Why can’t we do it more easily? Why don’t New Year’s Resolutions last? Etc. Well, I’ve been independently researching this topic for 17 years and I’ve even published a few articles describing where behavior change was successful.

So here’s the BIG secret I discovered that few people know or understand (which is why it may sound so “out there”). A person’s behavior is primarily driven by their state of emotional health (or un-health). I won’t get into the details here but suffice to say, if you’re ever wondering WHY someone is doing what their doing it’s pretty likely their behavior is an attempt to compensate for an unmet emotional need or an emotional trauma/pain.

The good news is as soon as a person begins to feel loved and supported their Emotional Health begins to improve and so do their behaviors. In study after study, specific behaviors have been shown to improve when a person feels more connected. In fact, a person’s behaviors are really just a symptom of a deeper, emotional, issue. I’m not saying love is the panacea for all ailments but I do believe it is the root cause for many.

Now, rather than focus on behaviors such as alcohol or drug abuse, obesity, bullying, sexual harassment, eating disorders, addiction, gun violence, etc. we can help a lot just by supporting these people emotionally. Support and love combined with other interventions could be a fastest road to addressing the behaviors.

In the workplace, the more connected and Emotionally Healthy we feel the more positive the culture, engagement and retention. While most Wellness Programs focus on Physical Health to try and reduce healthcare premiums there are many other greater expenses rooted in poor Emotional Health, yes, even at the office. While business may not seem emotionally driven if people are involved then it most certainly is.

Retention – Research shows 50% of employees quit because they’re unhappy with their boss or management. That is an emotional choice based on the feelings about a poor relationship. If the standard retention rate at an organization of 300 people is 10% and it takes 6 months to replace an employee and if their salary was $60,000/year then that is a poor retention cost of $900,000/year.

Engagement – Research shows 75% of the US workforce is disengaged. That’s like saying ¾ of your staff isn’t working or your entire staff is only working about 25% of the time. If a person doesn’t feel valued or like they matter at work and if they feel their work isn’t appreciated by their boss or organization then their motivation to try drastically reduces.

Let’s use some low example numbers… We’ll assume 300 employees earn an average of $60,000/year for a total annual payroll of $18 million. If people are only truly engaged 25% of the time it’s as if your organization is wasting 75% of their payroll or $13.5 million/year.

Culture – Happy people are far more productive, creative, innovative, willing to negotiate, compromise and work together. They do not tend to micro-manage, bully, harass, be absent, quit, disengage, argue or complain. A well-known 75-year long study by Harvard University shared their results in Triumphs of Experience (2012) showing “the key to lifelong happiness is connection”. Imagine if you and your workforce felt truly connected to others at the office, at home and to the organization, at large. Imagine how happy everyone would be and how contagious your positive culture would be. An organization like that would truly THRIVE!

Ultimately, each person’s state of Emotional Health is driven by the strength of their relationships. Positive relationships translate into constructive behavior and negative relationships leads to destructive behavior.

Emotional Health - Garbage In / Garbage Out
Emotional Health Box by Kevin R. Strauss

My #1 goal is to help you and your organization strengthen your relationships so you will thrive and I’ve developed a way to leverage technology so anyone can do it.

That’s my platform, in a nutshell. If it resonates with you then I’d be happy to help you and your organization implement a program to balance your wellness by addressing the critical Emotional Health component.

Now, it’s your turn to reach out and connect and tell me your needs and goals!

– Kevin

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