As the data shows, companies that achieved high levels of employee engagement outperformed others in nearly every category. It’s a deciding factor. Jack Welsh, the former CEO of General Electric, said according to the Gallup Organization, “Any company trying to compete. . . must figure out a way to engage the mind of nearly every employee.”
One of the primary success factors for companies links directly to the attitudes of employees. According to a recent survey by Towers Watson (Professional service firms – Re-engaging and retaining employees, 2010) covering 50 global firms, those with highly engaged employees improved in operating income by 19.2 % over a 12 month period versus a drop of 32.7% for firms with low engagement levels. During this same period, growth in net income rose by 13.7% for high engagement companies and decreased by 3.8 % for low engagement firms. The evidence shows employee engagement (indicated by levels of absenteeism, turnover, and discretionary effort) as a key ingredient in achieving financial success for companies.
This same study presented revealing statistics about the employees. According to the study, “Engagement reflects the bond or attachment between employee and employer. It incorporates willingness to give discretionary effort, and buy-in to company values and objectives.” Disengaged employee indicated the desire to leave, or make themselves available for other opportunities at a rate of 84 percent. The comparable figure for engaged employees fell to 49 percent, a remarkable difference. The current economic environment drives part of this difference since employees have been asked to do more with less, and with less compensation. An analysis of the aspects of engagement indicates several areas of importance for focus. Factors include a rational component linked to the employee’s support for the organizational strategy, goals, and values; an emotional component related to the employee’s sense of commitment to the organization; and a motivational aspect reflecting the willingness to extend effort above and beyond normal expectations.
The facility manager possesses the means to significantly influence the attitudes of employees, and therefore the company’s level of employee engagement. Over a period of 5 years, highly engaged companies enjoyed an advantage of 26% higher employee productivity rates, lower turnover rates, and 13% greater total returns. The highly engaged employees tended to be the top performers by far, and had significantly lower levels of absenteeism (Watson Wyatt’s WorkUSA Survey, Feb 2009).
Facility Managers and Company Success
Facility managers fit into the success model in two important ways. Several studies demonstrated the role of the facility, or work environment, and the services in creating a positive work environment in the minds of the employees. Specifically, employees bring an individually developed and unwritten set of expectations to the work place setting a benchmark of how they want to be treated and cared for by the company. Employees viewed the work setting and service they received as an extension of the level of care by management. Working in poorly heated (or cooled) spaces, or buildings that appeared shabby as compared to other comparable facilities nearby or in the same industry, set a bad example. Perceived poor service from support staff, such as maintenance personnel or cafeteria staff compounded the problem. Employees perceived the lack of attention in these areas, and a lack of amenities (wellness programs, on-site cafeteria, etc.) comparable in competing organizations, as a direct reflection on senior leadership and created negative attitudes in the minds of employees. Negative attitudes in employees often translated to poor treatment of customers of those client facing employees. Facility managers control these aspects of the work environment to a great degree, and therefore significant aspects of the success of the company through the attitudes of the employees (Bitner, 1992; Lin, 2004).
For example, facility managers directly impact the environment important to four work modes considered key in effectively leading today’s knowledge workers. These modes include spaces required to encourage employee focus, employee collaboration, employee learning, and socialization (Gensler 2008 Workplace Survey). Effective use of these environments translates to significantly improved performance. Top performing companies used learning, collaborative, and socializing modes over twice as much that average performing companies. All the survey respondents indicated an overall improvement in performance of 22 percent by incorporating the concepts important to a better designed workspace. The improvements resulted in levels of employee engagement and job satisfaction three times higher than average companies.
The facility manager’s knowledge and ability to leverage the work space design and quality of perceived service influences attitudes of employees and significantly impacts the bottom line. The manner in which the service staff treats clients, as established by the facility manager, greatly effects the attitudes of those served. Unquestionably, the facility manager influences the ultimate success of the organization in a very significant way.
Tim Parker is a Business Consultant focusing on Executives and Leadership. He is President of Parker Resource Management, LLC in Raleigh, NC.
Bitner, M. (1992). Servicescapes: The impact of physical surroundings on customers and employees. Journal of Marketing, Vol 56, 57-71.
Gensler 2008 Workplace Survey
Lin, I. Y. (2004). Evaluating a servicescape: The effect of cognition and emotion.Hospitality Management, 23, 163-178.
Towers Watson Offers Resolutions to Retain Talent, Engage Workers in 2011
Towers Watson, Professional Service Firms – Re-engaging and retaining employees, 2010
Towers Watson Strategies for Growth, Dec 2010
Watson Wyatt’s WorkUSA Survey Feb 2009