The link between employee engagement and stronger performance is readily apparent, especially in today’s working environment. With Thanksgiving upon us, many (optimistically) anticipated that by now we would be experiencing a return to, if not normal, at least something closer than our present situation. As a result, a genuine respect and appreciation for employees who have adapted and grown in the face of a totally new kind of adversity has emerged.
Engaged employees are rationally and emotionally connected to the organization – and when these connections are present and strong, employees will often go “above and beyond” expectations to deliver for clients and fellow team members. While it just makes sense that this brings positive organizational results, it is also substantiated by reams of industry research.
Another term for this “above and beyond” performance is Discretionary Energy – a term that has been around for many years but is truly relevant to the present season. Discretionary Energy is defined by Susan M. Heathfield as “the energy that an employee chooses to exert in service to coworkers or customers at work – or not.” It is the “get-up-and-go” that the employee is willing to contribute beyond the basic requirements of the job.
S. Chris Edmonds, writing for Forbes, has this observation in a post entitled “What it Actually Takes to Unleash Discretionary Energy”:
“Job requirements are really just a starting point, aren’t they? In your heart, you don’t what people to do only what’s expected. You want them to rock out. To extend themselves. To thrive. When people thrive, they don’t just serve your company better. They serve themselves better. They satisfy their own heart and soul.”
Discretionary Energy, therefore, is behavior that is encouraged and grows out of organizational culture and values. As Edmunds points out, increasing discretionary effort isn’t about injecting new requirements into the organization – it’s about removing the barriers that are keeping discretionary effort at bay.
Cultivating this kind of culture requires a strategic, consistent approach to employee recognition. This year, especially, it is imperative to recognize and reward those who contribute discretionary energy. You will find that, when recognized and encouraged, this becomes contagious and is a positive indicator of the level of employee engagement within the organization.