September 9, 2016 | Categories: Articles & Insights

Picture this– employees at your company are struggling to be engaged in their work. They don’t feel like their contributions make any sort of difference, so they just don’t care about much of anything. You feel like you have a team of zombies clocking in and clocking out, and they’re so disconnected from the other moving pieces of the company, that they have no clue if the business decisions they are making are actually sound or not, but then again, so what? They don’t care. Now picture this– your job is to fix the problem, but you have no clue how to make it happen.

You’re not alone if this is all too easy to picture. In fact, in their annual employee engagement survey this year, Gallup reported that just about seven out of 10 workers are either not engaged, or are actively disengaged in their work. That’s a pretty staggering statistic, and what’s more, companies with poor employee engagement tend to have lower earnings per share. Yikes! So your engagement problem, could actually become an engagement apocalypse if left unaddressed.

Like many before you, you’ve probably tried lots of things to solve this problem. You’ve probably tried implementing incentives and bonuses to help employees feel valued. You’ve probably incorporated a professional development training strategy and brought in motivational speakers to teach skills like communication, leadership, assertiveness and teamwork. You may have even decided to hold focus groups or allow for more convenient and casual working conditions. Heck, you may have even started stocking the company kitchen with all-you-can-eat baked goodies to help employees feel more valued.

All those things are good, and you should probably keep doing them, but there’s a reason you’re probably not seeing results yet. A company’s most engaged employees think and act like owners of the business, but they need to be empowered to think that way. What your employees are lacking, is business acumen. Our CEO Kevin Cope recently wrote an article for Fast Company where he addressed the issue of employee engagement, and he prescribed that you can empower employees to think like business owners by helping them to develop business acumen. He boils it down into two steps

Step 1: Focus on purpose. Cope says, “People will work hard for a paycheck, harder for a person, and hardest for a purpose.” Employees need a personal connection to the company’s purpose, or in other words, the company’s mission, or they’ll be more likely to lack the perspective to feel like their work matters. So, how can you start to implement this change? Regularly discuss the company mission statement as a team, and how each member of the team fits in to fulfill that mission. You could even have each employee write their own mission statements for how they will ascribe meaning to the company’s mission.

Step 2: Connect to the bottom line. At Acumen Learning, we’ve surveyed more than 50,000 people in 30 different countries and we’ve found that a staggering 90% of employees don’t understand their company’s important business metrics. That’s another staggering statistic! You can’t expect employees to be engaged contributors if they have no clue how their work contributes to the company’s bottom line. Chances are, they want to use their full potential, but they don’t have all the tools they need to help them get there. So what can you do? You can help your employees understand how their decisions affect the bottom line, which will help them see the value in their work, and in turn help them focus on doing the things that really count. And that, is what business acumen is all about.

If you implement these two steps, you’ll start seeing your employee engagement improve, and individual contributors will become less zombie-like– and more like the passionate, intelligent and gifted employees you hired them to be. If these steps seem overwhelming, we can help. Give us a call and we can help you develop a business acumen training strategy that will bring measurable results, and impress your boss.