Low employee engagement is costly, but there are solutions. In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn discusses what a CEO can impact the day-to-day engagement levels of employees.
Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo, guest host for this edition of Tough Things First with Ray Zinn. I’m a screenwriter and entrepreneur. Happy to be back again, Ray.
Ray Zinn: It’s a wonderful, beautiful day today, isn’t it, Rob?
Rob Artigo: And of course, it’s always a great time for a conversation in the podcast. Great place to learn and find out a little more about being an entrepreneur in the modern times.
So, here’s a pretty stunning figure. It definitely was to me when I found it. I was doing a little research on this subject and I found a Gallup poll from 2014, and I suspect that things are pretty similar now. It said engaged employees are rare. Engaged employees are rare, and so it was the State of the American Workplace report that said just 33% of employed residents in the United States are engaged at work, and that’s hardly more than three of ten employees in your company. Does that sound right to you, Ray?
Ray Zinn: It is. And what I’ve noticed when I did my walking around and visiting the various departments, I’ll notice certain people had their earphones in their ears, or they’ve got headphones on, and they won’t even hear me go by because they’ve got noise-canceling on and they’re listening to some music or something else. That just tells me they’re just not engaged.
Now, when I ask them about it … When I ask them to pull their earbuds out, or they turn their headset off, I say, “Hey, what are you doing?” They say, “Well, it’s not as distracting if I have my headset on.” I said, “It’s gotta be distracting because you’ve got to be listening to something on the other end, and I don’t know how you can concentrate on both things.”
Another thing I’ve noticed that they’re on the phone, cell phone, or they’re watching a football game or a baseball game or something at the same time that they’re working. And that, to me, is just not being engaged. Some just don’t even care. Some just putting in the time. Maybe they don’t like their job, they’re not interested in what they’re doing, and they just passively put in their hours and not really get a lot done.
Rob Artigo: Let me give you another example along those lines. You mentioned the headphones thing, and we’ve all seen this. Anybody who’s done any exercising, maybe a bike path … So, I’m a cyclist, and I ride out on the bike path, but I see people running, I see people walking and they have their headphones in on their bicycles, on the road, sharing the road with traffic and they have headphones on.
Ray Zinn: How dangerous.
Rob Artigo: It’s dangerous. I don’t understand. You need that sense. That’s one of your senses that keeps you alive, your ability to hear. It really is distracting. It doesn’t matter if somebody claims that it’s not a distraction. At work, I don’t mind if there is, in some cases, if you have a little radio that has a little bit of music on or something that’s soothing. Maybe a little bit soothing and relaxing throughout the course of your workday. I, as a boss, don’t really mind that so much, but if you have your headphones on, you’ve got the Giants game on in a small screen because you now can stream everything … You’ve got your Giants game streaming on the top corner of your computer screen. You’re coding like crazy on your page. I would say coding as fast as you can under the circumstances, considering you’re distracted. And then on the other thing you’ve got Facebook open, so you’re doing that, and maybe you’re blogging something. Let’s face it, it is a distraction to have headphones in and have all the distractions that you have available to you, and you can’t be engaged.
So, 33% certainly makes sense.
Ray Zinn: Yeah. Well, we had a company policy that prohibited people from doing these things. Listening to football games, basketball games, or other sports events, especially when the world soccer tournament came on. They were just glued to their iPhones or they’re streaming the results.
As much as we tell them not to do it, they still figure out a way to do it anyway.
Rob Artigo: What we want to do in this podcast is really hit to the meat of this matter, which is what we can do as bosses. As a CEO, you have to multitask without sacrificing essential oversight to day-to-day company productivity. And when we’re talking about engagement here, how does a CEO of a growing business have an impact on the day-to-day engagement levels of the employees? We’ve talked about what drives that dynamic, but how does the CEO have that day-to-day impact on engagement?
Ray Zinn: He has to set the example. If he’s got earbuds plugged in his ears, or he’s off streaming a football game, basketball game, whatever, then he’s not setting the example. The first thing he does is sets the example.
The next thing he can do is encouraging his staff to see that their people are also following company policy regarding these sorts of things. And then, of course, when I was CEO, I did a lot of walking around. I just visited different departments to see how they were operating, and I could tell those departments were lax because I saw a lot of that streaming of video and listening to music or whatever on their earbuds.
It is a distraction. People, of course, get in the habit of it, and they can’t live without it.
I notice when I come into my wife’s office here at home, she’s got these news stations on. I said, “How can you concentrate with all this background noise?” It just becomes more like a white noise. They may not be paying attention to what is being played or said, but it becomes a habit. Like people who can’t sleep without a fan going. This white noise, I think, is a distraction, and something that we should try to avoid.
As a CEO, the best thing you can do is set the example and insist that your staff does the same thing. You’ve got to walk the talk.
Rob Artigo: You just talked about what’s the most important thing, and I wanted to ask you about this because it came to mind, and that is what about simply making sure that people are taking … We have state law that says you have to take a break at certain times. Making sure that people take those breaks and get caught up on whatever they want to get caught up on on those breaks rather than doing it during the course of the workday throughout.
Ray Zinn: That’s certainly an approach. People do have to take breaks during the day. I have some people that take a walk. In other words, they get out of the office and walk around the block, as they say. I’ve seen them do that. I think getting away is okay as long as it’s not to excess. Ten, 15 minutes at the max a couple times a day, I think, is probably acceptable.
Rob Artigo: For more information on Tough Things First, the book, on how to reach out to Ray on Facebook, and via email, you can go to toughthingsfirst.com, and make sure you refer a friend. Right, Ray?
Ray Zinn: Yeah, thanks, Rob. And, hey, if you have questions or some concerns, please feel free to email us or call us. We’ll be happy to answer your questions on the air.
Rob Artigo: You get the terrific resource. Thank you again, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Thanks again, Rob.