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Engaging for commitment in staff with NLP

Employees with the highest level of commitment perform 20% better and are 87% less likely to leave the organization, which indicates that engagement is linked to organizational performance. This may seem pretty obvious to most of us, yet perhaps it’s not on the balance sheets or in the boardroom meeting agenda because it’s painfully missing in the approach of how to motivate staff.

The example below came from Wikipedia:

For example, at the beverage company of MolsonCoors, it was found that engaged employees were five times less likely than non-engaged employees to have a safety incident and seven times less likely to have a lost-time safety incident. In fact, the average cost of a safety incident for an engaged employee was $63, compared with an average of $392 for a non-engaged employee. Consequently, through strengthening employee engagement, the company saved $1,721,760 in safety costs in 2002. In addition, savings were found in sales performance teams through engagement. In 2005, for example, low-engagement teams were seen falling behind engaged teams, with a difference in performance-related costs of low- versus high-engagement teams totaling $2,104,823.3 (Lockwood).

Example in the Life insurance industry

Two studies of employees in the life insurance industry examined the impact of employee perceptions that they had the power to make decisions, sufficient knowledge and information to do the job effectively, and rewards for high performance. Both studies included large samples of employees (3,570 employees in 49 organizations and 4,828 employees in 92 organizations). In both studies, high-involvement management practices were positively associated with employee morale, employee retention, and firm financial performance.[4] Watson Wyatt found that high-commitment organizations (one with loyal and dedicated employees) out-performed those with low commitment by 47% in the 2000 study and by 200% in the 2002 study.

There’s a tendency among leaders, when things are tough, to look to their top-performers to get things done. But it seems that the greatest scope for productivity growth is in the middle ranks.

When you think about it this makes sense. Your top performers are likely performing at or close to optimal effectiveness. This group being the ones that deliver to a high standard can get additional demands placed upon them to provide more and more output. The greatest number of people in any organisation is the middle core, operating at satisfactory or average levels. If you can harness discretionary effort in this group a real step change will happen in the organisation.

Watson Wyatt’s Work USA Report found that when employees are highly engaged, their companies enjoy 26 percent higher employee productivity and lower staff turnover. According to the survey findings, highly engaged employees miss 20% fewer days absent from work, exceed performance expectations, are more supportive of change initiatives and are resilient in the face of change.

There’s no lack of support for the principle that engagement equals greater productivity. The problem lies in the effective implementation of engagement programmes and ensuring the middle ranks are on board. Especially, in the development of initiatives that are perceived – by employees – to be sincere.

You may have heard consultants speak about the pitfalls of “engagement through marketing”.
•    Toxic or unresponsive workplace environments are unlikely to change as the result of superficial internal PR programmes.
•    These typically presume that a set-piece keynote address or event will have an immediate and transformative effect on an organisation.
•    Staff don’t like to be sold to.

Why is NLP useful for HR Professionals?

So what does it take to engage employees?

Engage, in the context of internal communications, has become a cliché. So what does it mean?

Here is a view from the report findings:
•    To occupy, attract, or involve (someone’s interest or attention).
•    To cause someone to become involved in (a conversation or discussion).
•    To establish a meaningful contact or connection with.
•    To win over.

Successful managers will recognise their qualities in this definition.

To win over someone you must make an emotional connection.

To make an emotional connection you must be able to put yourself in their position; see their point of view. Do you know what it feels like to be an employee in this company?

Storytelling provides a means of doing this, but choosing the story to tell has to be done with care. A badly structured or ill-targeted story is as bad as a poorly thought out fact-laden PowerPoint presentation.

Effective storytelling engages an audience, since they are part of the story and can see themselves in it. In their mind’s eye.

Key Findings

•    Despite the rough and tumble of the economic recession, engagement levels around the world remain roughly stable when compared to 2008-2010
•    There is a strong correlation between engagement levels and age, role/level, and tenure in the organisation. Older employees and people in a positions of power and authority are more likely to be engaged.
•    More employees are looking for new opportunities outside their organisation than in 2008.
•    Engaged employees plan to stay for what they give; the disengaged stay for what they get.
•    Employees worldwide view opportunities to apply their talents, career development and training as top drivers of job satisfaction.
•    Trust in executives appears to have more than twice the impact on engagement levels than trust in immediate managers does.
•    Managers are not necessarily doing the things that matter most. The actions most correlated with high engagement are not always the ones that receive the most favourable ratings.
•    Executives appear to struggle with key leadership behaviours, especially what’s required to create a high-performance culture.
•    Engagement surveys without visible follow-up action may actually decrease engagement levels, suggesting that organisations think twice before flipping the switch on measurement without 100% commitment for action planning based on the results.

Key Implications and Recommendations

To reap the rewards that a more engaged organisation promises, the entire workforce needs to be accountable for their piece of the ‘engagement equation’ every day. The 2011 Blessingwhite Employee Engagement Report clarifies those roles and responsibilities.

•    Individuals

Ownership, clarity and action. Individuals need to know what they want — and what the organisation needs — and then take action to achieve both.

•    Managers:

Coaching, relationships and dialogue. Managers must understand each individual’s talents, interests and needs and then match those with the organisation’s objectives — while at the same time creating personal, trusting relationships. Furthermore, they need to discuss engagement often.

•    Executives

Trust, communication and culture. As an executive you have significant impact on the engagement levels of people you rarely see – or may have never met. You need to speak with passion about engagement and business results, but if you don’t have the trust of the workforce your message will be lost and twisted. Communications need to be a priority – in frequency, appropriateness and depth the WHAT and the WHY). You also must be diligent in holding yourself and your peers accountable for building a culture of high performance and engagement. Executives have to demonstrate consistency in words and actions, communicate a lot (and with a lot of depth), and align all business practices and behaviours throughout the organisation to drive results and engagement.

So how does staff engagement relate to NLP?

Recently, NLP World took on running a staff training for GDS International. There were 100 sales staff and 35 senior managers to train in excellent communication and leadership skills. Although the brief was for a one day training, I negotiated the package for one to one sessions afterwards to consolidate the package. Knowing that change and motivation comes from people being taken care of at the deepest level, we set about backing up the principles of NLP we supplied with personally tailored coaching sessions.

This allowed the medium performers to let go of whatever was holding them back, to begin to perform at their highest levels.

Any training course is only as good as the personal attention you can give to staff who are under performing, or who you want to perform to the best of their abilities. Staff engagement through NLP techniques and coaching is one way to make that happen.

Olly Stebbings, Global sales director GDS
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