Employee Engagement vs. Productivity

Employee Engagement vs. Productivity

A sign on the wall of my employee break room reads, “Are you being BUSY or are you being PRODUCTIVE?” If you’ve been following me for long, the most-recent employee engagement survey by Gallup should not be surprising to you. Only 33% of U.S. employees are engaged on the job. Internationally, the number is worse: only 13% of employees are engaged at work.

Two researchers in the Harvard Business Review issued a recent caution on the ambiguous term “engagement.” Fuller and Shikaloff explain, “Depending on how it’s measured, engagement could represent job satisfaction, emotional investment in the cause, willingness to invest discretionary effort, or advocating for the company as a good place to work. While many studies suggest that increased employee engagement leads to improved business results in aggregate, a deeper look at the data suggests that this may not always be true at an individual level.”

Specifically, the authors examined how to measure productivity when there are no clear metrics for some workers. In your orthodontic practice, it’s easy to measure productivity for your treatment coordinators. How many patients start treatment out of the total number of patients that received a doctor’s recommendation to start? For your administrative employees, it might be more difficult.

In the article, Fuller and Shikaloff attempt to correlate number of hours worked to engagement. In some companies, there is a correlation. In others, there is not. The key difference between highly productive and highly engaged workforces and all others was the fit between engagement, productivity and culture.

This makes sense. You might have a young energetic employee who wants to be a future dentist and set the world on fire, but if your culture doesn’t fit their ambition, the employee will not be productive. Alternatively, if you have employees that simply want to punch a time clock and get home on time, a culture that celebrates and rewards burning the midnight oil is not going to result in higher employee engagement.

In my own businesses, when I embraced the type of culture that helped our best employees thrive and figured out how to best-measure my results, things grew exponentially. We went from one office location to five and 4 clinic chairs to 45 in less than 3 years. If your practice has hit a plateau or you simply want to keep growing at a significant rate, take a minute to explore the seven-week OrthoMBA program that was developed specifically for these types of practices.

If a seven-week training program seems too serious for you, I recommend you at least schedule a morning breakfast with your team leaders and ask them to share how they think your culture either fits or doesn’t fit with the current level of employee engagement and what you might do to improve it. If you have no idea how to have that conversation, or if you’re clueless on your cultural fit, anonymously ask your employees this critical question: “Knowing what you now know, would you recommend a friend or family member come to work at our office?”

This simple exercise has transformed my practice. Whenever we float past 20% or 30% of our employees saying “No!” to that question, we re-align the culture and free up the futures for the lowest-performers in our businesses.

Worked at Burleson Orthodontics. Attended University of Missouri–Kansas City. Lives in Kansas City, Missouri.