Are Your Employees All-In? Gallup Says No, Maybe You’re To Blame

Mike Ettling

I’m incredibly passionate about how we create “all-in” employees and HR’s role in doing that. Why am I so passionate? Because I believe “all-in” people do what it takes to win. It’s that simple. But taking a look at Gallup’s most recent employee engagement survey, with 68.5% of workers considering themselves “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at work, we’re clearly not doing enough in this regard. Imagine what it’s doing to your business and your customer retention to have nearly three-quarters of your people in these categories!

Of course data matters. But so does sentiment. Walk into most businesses and you can tell within minutes whether the people are involved and committed – “all-in” – or simply there for as long as they can pull off taking home a paycheck. It’s a vibe, and it’s real. I believe it’s up to us as leaders to help “bring the vibe.”

You can’t expect your customers and partners to want to do business with you if your own people aren’t inspired working for you. Here are a few ways to fix this problem.

Show up

I don’t support the concept that people need to be at their desk in the office five days a week, eight or nine hours a day. But I do believe we need to show up and reach out.

I came to Silicon Valley from the UK about a year after joining SuccessFactors. I did it for two business reasons; first, I believe the Valley is the heart of innovation for cloud and I wanted to be close to that unconstrained thinking, and second, I believe “all-in” people are motivated by connections and social interaction, and I wanted to help instill that as a hallmark for our business. Five years after being acquired by SAP, many people who still work in the same office no longer work on the same teams or for the same managers. While their leaders may once have been seated right next to them, now that leader could be in Walldorf, New York, Newtown Square, Atlanta, Zurich, Paris, or Chicago. So it’s easy to wonder, why face the traffic just to sit on conference calls all day?

For me, it’s worth it for the human connection; those unplanned conversations in the office have as much importance, if not more, than ever. After all, it’s not only the people directly on my team who inspire my thinking and my creativity. When’s the last time you had that “it just clicked” moment, and how likely is it that it happened while you were working alone and away from the office? Critical breakthroughs often come during a spontaneous run-in with a colleague who is challenging your thinking or approach. So don’t just head to the office and head to a phone booth. Get up and connect with your colleagues.

Invest in “all-in” people

As leaders, we sometimes forget what motivates people at work. When you run a business end-to-end, you are focused on everything. We must put our people focus first.

As much as I value the “live” connections that take place in the workplace, today’s flexibility is without doubt part of what “all-in” people desire and have come to expect. And since technology means that we can be connected no matter where we are (with the clear exception of the three blocks surrounding my sons’ schools), we have every opportunity to provide the best tools for people to stay connected and collaborate across the globe, in real-time, through work networks not unlike Facebook, LinkedIn, WeChat, or any of the other dozens of communities we interact in every day outside of work.

The days of worrying about our people engaging in social media and networking platforms during the workday are over. These tools are necessary today in business. Over 34 million users connect with SAP Jam today. That is pretty significant evidence of the value of creating a vibrant community in the workplace. 

Keep the feedback continuous and address gaps with learning

The other thing I get pretty excited about is the technology and tools we have that identify our best performers and provide new ways to motivate, reward, and nurture them – in real-time, on a regular basis. We no longer have to wait for that once-a-year appraisal session, what I like to call the 007 “license to kill” moment when we bring everything from the previous year out on the table. Imagine getting golf coaching and rather than adjusting your swing daily, your coach tells you everything you need to fix – six months too late.

And we must broaden the pool of people we look at as super stars. Provide mentoring, continuous learning, opportunities to work on different projects, or to be in a new role. All of our jobs are changing regularly, and HR can help everyone in our business keep up.

People recognize these efforts – and when they see them happening, when they feel their success is being invested in and celebrated – they go the extra mile for you.

All-in” people thrive when surrounded by other “all-in” people. Think about your own experiences in your career. It’s easy to feel sluggish and stuck if you are not surrounded by people taking risks, trying new ways of doing things, and sharing success.

Let’s reverse that 68.5%. When we’re left to our own devices, we drift. Leaders connect. Our job is to bring the vibe, so our people are “all-in.” Success is simply human.

Learn more about what employees today expect out of their leaders and why Everything You Know About Leadership Is Wrong.


Mike Ettling

About Mike Ettling

Mike Ettling is the President of SAP SuccessFactors. He is an inspirational, visionary and highly dynamic leader with a wealth of leadership expertise, genuine business acumen, and an exemplary record driving multi-million dollar sales, marketing initiatives and transformation in a global context.