Engagement Variability: Consistency is Key For Employee Engagement

Everyone is going through something. Your team member may have a sick child, another team member may be a caregiver to an elderly parent, and yet another may be divorcing. Most of these situations are short-lived and easy for an employer to deal with by giving people the time they need. However, if you have a team member that is consistently emotionally challenged, it can be a challenge for your company too. 

New research from MIT Sloan dives into the concept of “engagement variability.” It can have an impact on job performance and is closely tied to an individual’s emotional stability. Inconsistent engagement can obviously have an impact on employee performance, which is something that managers know. Still, the research brings up some interesting data points that can help employers deal with it more effectively when it happens.

Should I Lay Off an Employee Going Through a Tough Time?

One aspect of the research turns everything we think we know about emotions and how they affect our work on its head. Apparently, people who have lower levels of emotional stability do better at work with inconsistent engagement while undergoing emotional stress. 

The higher levels of neuroticism brought about by lower emotional stability allow these employees to easily redirect their focus to work from whatever is bothering them. This flies directly in the face of the usual assumption that someone who is emotionally compromised will perform poorly at work. 

The finding ultimately means that an employee going through a bad time in their life that may last for a few months to a year - a divorce or the death of a close family member, for example - may only need a short period of time off. Of course, you should offer them the time they need, but there should be no issues for the company if they choose to keep working.

When to Worry about Inconsistent Engagement

If inconsistent engagement is not the result of something that is causing emotional instability in a team member, it is likely being caused by your company. People who are emotionally stable are choosing not to engage because they don’t enjoy the work, don’t like how they are being treated, are looking for something different, or are just not invested in the business.

In a way, you almost have to worry more about your people who aren’t having issues outside of the office, because disengagement from them can lead to poorer job performance. Intentional disengagement due to dissatisfaction is worse for performance than unintentional disengagement caused by outside factors. 

To combat lower engagement from employees who are not emotionally compromised, research suggests that managers should look for ways to increase investment in their jobs and come up with proactive strategies to reduce engagement variability.

Consistency is Key to Better Results

Good employee performance is rooted in the consistency of their engagement. According to the study, people do better when they give consistent effort over time. Think about how you work - are you giving 110% some days but only 20% on others? 

According to the MIT Sloan research, you will drive better overall results if you consistently give 50% every day you work rather than varying the rate of effort from day to day. While 50% may look alarming to managers, think about how many hours the average employee actually spends doing work in an eight-hour day. As long as work gets done, it doesn’t matter when or how much someone actually works. 

Let’s take, for example, people you know who started their own businesses. Chances are high you know both of these people - one who worked consistently every day at building their business and is now reaping the rewards, and one who used their newfound freedom to play a little fast and loose with the concept of “work” and maybe did not do as well. The successful business owner was engaged when random opportunities came up, the unsuccessful one wasn’t - it’s that simple. 

The challenge for managers with this recommendation is that work, in and of itself, may not be consistent. There may actually be times when you need someone engaged for the full eight hours of their day to meet a deadline. In order to decrease engagement variability, you as a manager have to reduce workflow variability. One good solution to this problem is eliminating productivity roadblocks, since those roadblocks act as a dam which builds up the volume of work until they are removed. 

Another is to plot out regular and clear weekly tasks that your employees can work on if nothing more important is on their desk. Making workflow predictable and consistent can also help to alleviate employee stress while decreasing engagement variability. This gives employees who may be going through an emotionally tough time clear goalposts to meet, removing the mental labor of trying to organize their own tasks without you having to micromanage them. 

Prodoscore is an excellent tool to use if you want to know how engaged your employees really are. Its non-invasive solution measures engagement of various cloud-based tools so you get a clear picture of what’s going on and can deal with issues before they become red flags. Actionable insights surfaced are easy to understand and can help team members self-manage.

Contact us for a demonstration of how we can help reduce employee engagement variability and increase productivity at your business.

How will visibility impact your business?