Today we see alarming reports that lost productivity, from actively disengaged employees, is costing the U.S. economy $370 billion annually. If you are a leader wondering how widespread this ‘disengaging’ crisis is and what steps you can take to win this battle in your own company, follow along as I interview Pamela Jett, MS, CSP, global business communications expert, and author of an important new book on the subject.
Q: The new book ‘When The Economy Changes… I’m Outta’ Here’, seems to have struck a good balance of business acumen, storytelling, and science. How did the book develop and why did you release it this fall?
Ms. Jett: The book was written because we have entered a world-wide disengagement crisis. How big is the challenge we are facing? Research tells us that barely 1 in 5 employees in the U.S. are engaged on the job and the rest fall into some category of disengagement. Looking through a global lens, unsettling estimates indicate that only 11% of employees are actively engaged in their jobs today. Case in point, during recent business meetings in Asia, I met leaders who expressed concerns regarding their countries disengaged workforces along with how the trend has impacted business growth.
Next, and based on the large economic impact, it is a relevant book for companies that want to move their work force from “disengaged” to “engaged”. The engaged and productive employees – that can spur business growth.
Q: You mentioned previewing the new book in Asia, was it well received?
Ms. Jett: Absolutely. In Singapore the Human Resources professionals appreciated the focus on practical application, language patterns (that can help bilingual employees), and specific “words to choose” and “words to lose,” which has helped them discover communication tools that they have put to work immediately.
Q: Can you share three tips that readers can use right away?
Ms. Jett: Of course. Here is Tip No. 1: Eliminate the word “should”. Why? If you stop ‘should-ing” on people (e.g., “you should do this…” or “you shouldn’t do it that way; you should do it like this…”) you will stop using a disengaging form of communication. First and foremost, professionals do not appreciate it when others try to “tell them what to do” and deny them their freedom to choose.
So, instead of using “you should” consider the power of replacing it with one of these options:
– It would be better if you did it this way…
– The _______ (project, employee handbook, contract) requires you to do it this way…
– Our _______ (customer, bottom-line) benefits when you do it this way…
Next, Tip No. 2: Ditch the word “Don’t” and focus on what you would like them to do instead. Here are two classic examples – replace “Don’t be late” with “Please be on time” or replace “Don’t forget…” with “Please remember….” These are both good examples of sharing what the desired behavior is as opposed to the undesired behavior.
Lastly, I want to share one of my favorites in Tip No. 3: Which is – Ask open-ended questions. Why is this important? Because using open-ended questions is one of the easiest tools, anyone at any level of the organization can use them, and they are also one of the most effective forms of engaging communication. Here are a few of my top open-ended questions:
– What are your thoughts on this?
– How do you think this will benefit ____ (the team, our customer, the bottom-line)?
– How can this be done ____ (better, smarter, faster, more efficiently)?
I have found that by integrating these and other open-ended questions into my global client’s regular communication, they are viewed as more open, approachable, and respectful individuals.
Q: Excellent tips. Now, from your perspective, who can benefit from this new book?
Ms. Jett: Job titles and positions aside, every one of us can benefit from the new book. Why? Because each of us can make a positive impact on employee engagement using the most important skill set we have: our communication skills. We can each choose to make changes that positively affect ourselves, those we lead, and our peers – changes that can result in happier, more productive companies.
What open-ended questions will you ask today? Identify a set of three open-ended questions to ask this week and evaluate responses to see how they have positively impacted your communication