99% Inspiration, 1% Perspiration

by Eric Garton and Michael C. Mankins

Engaging Your Employees Is Good, but Don’t Stop There

Genius, as Thomas A. Edison famously declared, may be 1%  inspiration and 99% perspiration. But building a company employees truly love reverses the equation: it’s almost all inspiration, and sweat has only a little to do with it. This is the unexpected conclusion of new research from Bain & Company, conducted in conjunction with the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Here’s the background. Many commentators talk glibly about employee “engagement,” as if that concept were all-encompassing and easy to define. But we have always found it helpful to break the idea into its component parts.

The foundation elements—call them employee satisfaction—are fundamentals such as having a safe work environment and the tools necessary to do the job. Abraham Maslow taught us that we can’t concern ourselves with higher goals until we have the necessities of life, including security. So it is in the workplace: first things first.

Next come the elements of true engagement, such as the feeling that you’re part of an extraordinary team, that you’re learning and growing, and that you can make a real impact. And then, at the top—perhaps the equivalent of Maslow’s self-actualization—is the feeling that you derive meaning and purpose from the company’s mission. That’s inspiration.

Most of us know how important inspiration can be in everyday life. In the workplace, as one pundit put it, employees react differently when they encounter a wall. Satisfied employees hold a meeting to discuss what to do about walls. Engaged employees begin looking around for ladders to scale the wall. Inspired employees break right through it.

In the research, we surveyed over 300 senior executives from companies all over the world. We asked them to assess, based on their impressions of employee output, the relative productivity of dissatisfied, satisfied, engaged, and inspired employees. The results point to the productive power of an engaged and inspired workforce. If satisfied employees are productive at an index level of 100, then engaged employees produce at 144, nearly half again as much. But then comes the real kicker: inspired employees score 225 on this scale. From a purely quantitative perspective, in other words, it would take two and a quarter satisfied employees to generate the same output as one inspired employee.

Read full article and find related infogram here: https://hbr.org/2015/12/engaging-your-employees-is-good-but-dont-stop-there

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