Personal finance and getting out of debt is not just about what you do at home, but can also be impacted by your work. There is plenty of evidence that shows people who perform at a high level at work tend to earn more than poor performers, which could lead to having more financial resources to throw at your debt. In this week’s blog we focus on some of the factors that lead to higher work engagement, and what you can do to boost your engagement and / or those who work for you.
Let’s start with a basic definition of what it means to be engaged in your work.
Scott routinely works with business leaders who are trying to boost their engagement and the engagement of their employees. One simple test he prescribes to measure engagement starts with taking a post-it note and placing it somewhere it will be seen each day (i.e. bathroom mirror, night stand, dashboard, computer monitor). Next, the participant puts a check mark on one side or the other as to how they are feeling as they prepare to go to work. Option one says, “I’m looking forward to going to work today!” and the other says, “I’d rather stay home today.”
Over the course of two weeks the participant will begin to see how engaged they are in their work. Unfortunately, if they’re like 70% of Americans they won’t be very engaged in their work. In other words, they’d prefer to stay home more days than going to work. Outside of the U.S. the numbers are even worse where a staggering 85% prefer to stay home more days than going to work. No wonder many of us experience such poor customer service everywhere we go!
Why does engagement matter? Gallup has shown organizations with a high percentage of engaged employees are far more successful, and have higher profitability and customer satisfaction, and lower turnover, safety problems, and employee theft. They, along with several other research organizations, have uncovered much of what drives employee engagement, but unfortunately much of the learning has yet to be put in place since the overall trend in engagement has not changed significantly in the past decade.
From a personal finance perspective we would argue engagement also matters to you as an individual and your potential earning power that can be used to increase the speed at which you get out of debt. Think about it. How many patients do you think would return to see you if you were not engaged in your work? Nobody wants to visit a doctor who’d prefer to be at home instead of helping them get better!
Ways to increase engagement.
Engagement is a coin with two sides. One side is focused on what you can do to increase your personal engagement, while the other is centered on what you can do to increase the engagement of those who work for you. Let’s look at ways to increase your personal engagement first.
Find a best friend at work. Yes, this is actually a way to drive engagement that Gallup has shown has a significant impact on employee engagement. Think about it. Have you ever worked somewhere in which you had no friends or felt like you didn’t “fit in”? What happened? Did you work there for a long time? Did you perform at a super-high level? Probably not. You probably felt out of place and a bit of a loner and moved on to another job. We are social beings and if we don’t have the ability to be social at work on a regular basis we’re not likely to be engaged in our work.
Seek first to serve instead of being served. There’s something about helping others that leads to a greater level of engagement. No one wants to work with others who are just seeking to fulfill their own selfish needs! You’ll have a hard time finding a best friend at work if your focus is on your own ambitions and goals. Instead, focus on helping others succeed. The ironic thing is when you help others win it tends to come back in a positive way for yourself. We truly do reap what we sow in others.
Have an attitude of gratitude. No one owes you anything. Sure, you’ve spent over a decade in education and training and are smarter than the average person, but that still entitles you to nothing. Spend a little time each morning and evening writing down a few things you are grateful for and you’ll be smiling more throughout your day, and you’ll also find that your smiles will “infect” those around you to do the same.
If you own a practice or manage people you have a special role in driving engagement. Much of the research on engagement suggest a high percentage of engagement is in the hands of those who manage people. You’ve probably heard the adage, “People don’t quit bad jobs they quit bad managers.” As a leader you hold a special power in improving the engagement of those you lead.
Provide what employees need to perform well. This is a foundational element to increasing engagement. It’s hard to be engaged in your work if you don’t have the basic tools, technology, equipment, etc. to perform well. Give your people what they need to perform well and they will perform well!
Give consistent and timely performance feedback. Everyone wants to know how well they are performing, but far too many leaders give no feedback. If you want people to improve you have to let them know they need to improve. If they’re doing well you need to reinforce the good performance by letting them know they are doing well.
Treat each employee as they want to be treated. We are all different and therefore should be treated differently when it comes to performance in the workplace. What reinforces great performance of one employee may be a turnoff to another. Great leaders know this and use each person’s uniqueness to drive their performance to new highs. The simple tactic to use here is to ask your employees how they’d like to be reinforced for great performance, and then do it when they perform at a high level to continue to get the great performance.
So how engaged are you in your work? Take the post-it test and find out. If you determine you’re not very engaged make some changes and test again in a few months. When you are highly engaged in your work not only will it have an impact on your finances, but you’ll also discover a new level of happiness and contentment in your life.
Seek friendship and rich relationships. Use your gifts to serve the needs of others. Be grateful and smile more. Debt freedom is in your future!