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XChange 2018: Probe Human Behavior To Boost Employee Engagement

Businesses need to understand what job fit, manager impact, culture and team dynamics look like to ensure that employees are engaged, says Kinsey Management President Brandon Kinsey.

Employees can become disengaged in the workplace due to a poor job fit, misguided manager, corrosive culture or alienating team dynamics, according to a subject expert.

Businesses hope that their employees will be the same productive people in the workplace as they are in their personal or home life, according to Brandon Kinsey, owner and president of Houston-based Kinsey Management. But several triggers can result in an employee being taken out of an environment where he or she would be most efficient, Kinsey said, ultimately resulting in disengagement.

"Fixing the engagement problem is really about understanding human behavior," said Kinsey during an executive session at XChange 2018, hosted by CRN parent The Channel Company. "We have an obligation as leaders, a responsibility to engage our employees."

[Related: Security Expert: Gamification, Encouragement Vital To Boosting Worker Engagement]

Enablement isn't about happiness, job satisfaction or workplace perks like beanbags, free food or video games, Kinsey said. Instead, engagement is all about how emotionally committed employees are to the company and its goals.

Companies with higher levels of employee engagement enjoy higher profit margins, larger shareholder returns, reduced absenteeism, lower turnover and fewer safety incidents, according to Kinsey. But only 55 percent of businesses have a strategy in place to fix engagement problems, Kinsey said, and just 2 percent of CEOs have a firm grasp on what employee engagement truly looks like at their company.

"If you don't have a human strategy, you're going to lose them," Kinsey said Monday at XChange 2018 in San Antonio. "They're going to go somewhere else."

Businesses need to first understand what job fit, manager impact, culture and team dynamics look like within their specific organization before pursuing potential remedies, Kinsey said.

It's difficult to determine during the interview process which prospective employees have the right personality for an open position, said Gregory Hammerl, managing partner at Amherst, N.Y.-based solution provider Network Services. Hammerl said he'd be interested in incorporating a human behavior tool into the interview process to help with selecting the right person for the open position.

For existing employees, Hammerl said he's considering initiatives such as unlimited vacation time or having a four-day work week in the summer to help boost worker retention. Hammerl said such initiatives could give his business a competitive advantage when attempting to recruit top talent in the area.

Job fit can become a challenge when there's misalignment between the natural understanding of what a position entails and an employee's sense of self, according to Kinsey. Specifically, Kinsey said employees can become disengaged when they feel like they're being asked to do something that doesn't necessarily fit who they are.

Leaders need to fight the natural tendency to manage others in the precise way that they themselves would like to be managed, Kinsey said. Through self-awareness training, executives can gain a better understanding of how their management style impacts subordinates, he said.

"It's your responsibility as a leader to understand how you lead, and how it affects the people around you," Kinsey said. "It's also our responsibility as leaders to modify when we need to."

The needs of employees and managers work in the same way, Kinsey said, with their most dominant attributes effectively predicting their behavior in the workplace. But Kinsey said managers are the ones responsible for understanding the needs of their employees based on their behavioral drives, and then putting the needs of the employee first.

Cultural misalignment occurs when an aspect of a company's culture runs contrary to an employee's understanding of who they are, Kinsey said. The good news, Kinsey said, is that it's possible to fix cultural misalignment with a little time and no money required.

It's very important for managers to understand the dynamic of their team, Kinsey said, particularly as it relates to someone who’s an outsider or loner but still integral to the success of the operation.

"We know we don't understand this person, but we don't want them to leave," Kinsey said.

Organizations should work on getting a firmer grasp on the role these individuals have as well as how they fit in. Specifically, Kinsey said companies should grasp what about this role was so important to the team, as well as what about the particular individual's performance itself made them so integral.

Businesses that use some type of human behavior tool to efficiently engage employees will enjoy a competitive advantage and find it easier to differentiate themselves from the competition thanks to the caliber of their talent, according to Kinsey.

"It doesn't have to take a lot of effort if you're using the right tool and have the right expert helping you along the way," Kinsey said. "Engagement doesn't have to be an enigma. It's a solvable problem."

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