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It is not about status, and it is not about the amount of value created; it is about creating value in the assigned domain and in the expected quantity.
A September McKinsey article written by Aaron De Smet, Marion Mugayar-Baldochhi, Angelika Reich, and Bill Schaninger (link at the bottom) discusses the issue with reference to the differing levels of engagement of employees.
Employee engagement is a topic close to my heart and in my management practice, I watch it closely and keep managing it as far as possible. Engaged employees tend to give their best capability and effort to their job, and remain emotionally engaged with the organization, thereby keeping the turnover rate in manageable limits. In addition, they are a constant source of positive influence and inspiration for others. The overall value they create goes beyond their scope of work. Disengaged employees on the other hand, barely do enough to survive and spend most of their time in spreading negativity around. They do not leave the organization easily but cause others to get disengaged and leave. They do not create value expected from them, rather, they destroy value created by others.
Engagement and disengagement sound like black and white, like two distinct spheres opposing one another. However, the organization spectrum is never like this. Between engaged and disengaged groups, there are various shades which are less understood and talked about. The latest McKinsey research elaborates this area and defines six groups of employees for better understanding and management. The research has been carried out in the US and the percentages allocated to various groups shall vary for Pakistan. For example, Gallup research has consistently shown that the highest percentage of engaged employees is found in the US – 38%, followed by Singapore. Even Europe falls in 20-25% range. While India has gone up the ladder, Pakistan has seen a constant decline.
Before I share key results from the research, I would like to comment on the human resource scenario in Pakistan. We have two major issues which are interrelated also. One, our organizations are overstaffed with low caliber, low-paid employees. Our employers and managers do not hire better quality staff as it costs more but hires 50-100% more poor-quality staff which costs the same or even more. What would be the method in the madness? During long years, I have found that they find it easier to handle such staff. They can order them around, devalue them anytime, and keep their rule intact. More disengaged managers do it more actively. Two, every line manager wishes to see his department swelling every year as it feels good to have 50 rather than 30 employees. These are deep rooted psychological issues which are there due to centuries of oppression by feudal lords, rulers, deprivation, and caste-systems. We refuse to recognize it because it hurts our ego.
The net effect is that probably 90% or more employees in our organizations have a streak of disengagement. Government departments probably have 99% disengaged employees.
Let us look at the McKinsey research. The authors have identified six categories of employees based on the engagement level. I would again emphasize that percentages are based on US data. Having said that, you will find all categories here also, albeit in different composition.
Thriving Stars – Around 4%
This is the top talent. These are the rare employees who bring disproportionate value to the organization. Interestingly, they are capable of achieving high level in both performance and wellbeing. They find purpose and meaning in work which motivates them to work relentlessly in the pursuit of extraordinary performance. Their own stellar performance has a hugely positive impact on productivity, and they also create psychological safety and trust in a team performance. The analogy may be drawn from sports such as football where thriving stars are attracted by various clubs. It is not for the reason that they would score all the goals, it is for the team to feel more confident because of their presence.
The Reliable and Committed – Around 38%
This group, with its sheer size, represents the core of the organization. They are dependable performers in all seasons who execute their jobs in a reliable manner. They are satisfied and committed, and therefore they go above and beyond the call of duty. For example, they will help their peers with their assignments, and they may volunteer for extra work, if needed.
The Double-Dippers – Around 5%
Double-dippers are the class of full-time salaried employees who hold two or more jobs simultaneously, without their employers’ knowledge. Interestingly, they are evenly spread among engaged and disengaged categories; in the latter category they destroy value more actively.
Pharmaceutical sales teams have been seeing this phenomenon quite often, particularly in more distant areas where managerial reach is weaker. They may hold a government job as a clerk or teacher, and also work as medical reps in a pharma companies. They arrange to have attendance marked in the government office but work more time at the pharma job. Some more daring cases have seen one medical rep working for two pharma companies simultaneously.
This is different from people who do two jobs in different times. In Pakistan, the most common example is that of teachers, who teach in a school or college in the morning and teach at private academies in the afternoon and evening.
The Mildly Disengaged – Around 32%
Being mildly disengaged, these workers do the required work to keep surviving. Their performance may be variable, but never bad enough consistently to cause firing from the job. They would not be proactive and shall not go beyond the scope of work to do anything extra. They, however, do not harm the organization by spreading negativity or deliberately creating issues.
In Pakistan, common indicators of these people include availing entire quota of all kinds of leaves and sitting long on one assignment so that another one may not come along.
The Disruptors – Around 11%
Of the six groups, the disruptors have the highest potential for causing harm to the organization. They openly express their dissatisfaction and are a constant source of spreading negativity among others. In Pakistan, they do not leave, but consistently cause others to leave. Their performance is below par, but they keep surviving through other tactics even in private organizations; in government organizations they cannot be touched due to misused legal protection. Their scope of harm is wide and significant because they suck the energy of others also.
The Quitters – Around 10%
These are not necessarily the lowest performers, but they are the most dissatisfied certainly. Even with good talent, their performance falls due to very low level of commitment. Eventually, their dissatisfaction takes over and they quit.
The impact of their quitting depends on their placement. They may have been placed at a critical position and their departure may adversely affect the project they are working on. Or their departure may warrant rearrangement of the team they were in. Commonly, the performing quitters feel they are undervalued.
This research from Mckinsey holds great value for all managers, particularly senior managers who are involved in policy making.
In the next post, we shall look at some recommendations about handling these groups of employees.
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