Leadership for worker engagement and productivity

Leadership for Worker Engagement and Productivity

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Posted on October 04, 2016


Co-authored with Ruben Chaumont

The Philippines is truly rich in human resources. Yet, worker productivity tends to be low in business organizations and turnover tends to be high. The country can only achieve its development goals if managers can solve this productivity problem. Is there a way?

M. A. P. Insights

Benito L. Teehankee


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M. A. P. Insights -- Rolando T. Dy: "Agribusiness corridors"

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EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT IS A CRITICAL DRIVER OF ORGANIZATIONAL PERFORMANCEEmployee engagement is a critical factor for the success of organizations. Research shows that higher levels of employee engagement lead to higher customer satisfaction, higher productivity and profitability, and less employee turnover. What is employee engagement? It is the emotional connection employees feel toward their organization. This emotional connection is important because it influences employees’ behaviors, particularly the level of effort they put into their work.Unfortunately, many organizations suffer from low engagement. A survey conducted by Gallup revealed that only 29% of employees are engaged at work in the Philippines. Imagine hiring 10 employees only to have three of them put in their full effort at work, while the other seven do just the bare minimum or sometimes even less than that. Does that mean that seven employees out of 10 arrive at their new jobs already disengaged? In our experience, the answer is no. So, why do so many employees end up becoming disengaged at work?THE HIDDEN ROOTS OF EMPLOYEE DISENGAGEMENTOver the last seven years, one of us -- Ruben Chaumont, the co-writer of this piece -- has been sent into corporations from multiple industries across Europe and Asia in order to help their leaders increase employee engagement. After conducting individual interviews with more than 700 employees, his most important discovery was that many workplace cultures directly generate employee disengagement. In fact, all the employees that he talked to had the desire to perform and create impact for their organizations. They wanted to be empowered, to be trusted, to contribute their ideas, to be given opportunities for learning and growth. So why did they become disengaged? The answer can be found in their work environment. Many work environments prevent employees from bringing their best to their organizations, and little by little such environments undermine employees’ desire to strive to perform at their best.THE FOUR HUMAN NEEDS AT WORKRuben discovered that when an employee lost motivation, most of the time, it was because he or she was unable to satisfy one of four types of human needs: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs (or PEMS, for short).PHYSICAL NEEDSResting properly and disconnecting from one’s work are critical in order to sustain high levels of productivity and creativity. Unfortunately, many workplace cultures prevent a proper work-life balance. Long hours, constant availability through electronic devices, lack of proper breaks and vacation time, often ends up exhausting people physically and mentally over time and consequently hindering their performance.


To nurture a sense of engagement, human beings need to feel a sense of trust and self-esteem. However, a blame culture, a lack of a strong team, or a lack of support from managers too often discourage people from trying their best.


Achieving great work requires the ability to focus, to be creative, and to take decisions. Unfortunately, more often than not, unclear goals, lack of feedback, and barriers to obtaining information and approvals prevent employees from engaging their brains in pursuit of their work objectives.


Waking up inspired and driven to go to work is the strongest guarantee of employee engagement. However, the inability of employees to connect their day-to-day work to a shared vision, values, and direction trivializes jobs into meaningless day-to-day tasks.


A study conducted by The Energy Project in partnership with the Harvard Business Review revealed that organizations which fuel all employee PEMS needs tend to have 91% more employees who are engaged with their work and 199% more employees who feel loyal towards their organizations.

Therefore, one of the most effective ways for leaders to increase employee engagement is to ensure that the work environments and cultures that they build enable their people to satisfy their PEMS needs.

The solutions are often deceptively simple.

For example, one manager who took part in Ruben’s coaching program was responsible for a highly disengaged employee who would not try his best to develop the computer skills that he needed to perform his responsibilities and would consistently submit deliverables of poor quality.

Using the PEMS model, the manager was able to design a work environment that fueled the engagement of her employee. She understood that giving more responsibility to her employee and including him more as part of a team would nurture his spiritual needs. She also offered him a closer mentorship for learning computer skills that increased his self-confidence and therefore his emotional needs. In one week’s time, what appeared to be a lazy and disengaged employee became a highly motivated and productive employee.

We believe it is in the interest of every leader to learn the skills and the tools to drive employee engagement through knowledge that is now available from psychological sciences. It would be a sheer waste of human potential and organizational value not to.

Intentional Work Communities (IWC) in partnership with De La Salle University Center for Professional Development in Business will offer, on November 17th, a one-day seminar entitled: “How CEOs and Executives Can Build an Empowering Company Culture: Learn how to use the Science of Positive Organizational Psychology to Empower Employee Performance.”

For more information, visit: intentionalworkcommunities.com/events.

(The article reflects the personal opinion of the authors and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or the M.A.P)

Benito L. Teehankee is vice-chair of the M.A.P. CSR Committee and a Professor of Management and Organization at De La Salle University. He teaches, writes and provides consulting on leadership, organizational culture, business ethics and corporate governance. His co-writer is Ruben Chaumont, Founder and CEO of International Work Communities and an expert in the emerging field of Positive Organizational Psychology. Operating in Asia and Europe as a consultant, speaker and trainer, he helps companies use the science of human flourishing to fuel workplace performance.