Turning Employees into “Owners”


The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index is a joint venture between Gallup and the health management company Healthways.  The Index is designed to measure the overall well-being of the United States and its various regions by randomly administering a comprehensive survey measuring the overall mental, physical and emotional health of individuals across the country (Hawaii and Utah top the list).

Healthways being a client of RealTime Performance, I have been following the index carefully and I was struck with a report released earlier this month on the relative well-being of different professions.  The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index found that Business Owners are the happiest, most engaged workers in the workplace today.  On one level, these results are exactly what we might expect, but if we dig a little deeper into the data, there are some important findings that offer insights into how to increase employee engagement among regular (non-owner) employees.

  • Working longer hours does not automatically equate with low engagement.  Business Owners work more hours than any other job category, yet they have the highest well-being.  This tells us that longer hours are detrimental to employee engagement only if the employee is not passionate and does not feel “ownership.”
  • Lower pay does not necessarily mean lower well-being.  Although Business Owners make less than Professionals and Managers/Executives,  they have higher overall well-being than these other job categories.  What this tells us is that pay is important, but other intangibles such as passion, engagement, and a sense of ownership more than make up for lower pay among Business Owners.

A Wall Street Journal article about the study noted:

“Regardless of occupational field, the survey suggests that seeking out enjoyable work and finding a way to do it on your own terms, with some control over both the process and the outcome, is likely for most people to fuel satisfaction and contentment. “

So one way to increase engagement among employees is help them discover what their passionate about, and then give them the freedom to pursue that work on their own terms.  This, of course, means we have to trust that employees will make good decisions and do the right thing for the company.  I have written previously about the overwhelming evidence connecting trust and engagement.

In addition, my good friend and colleague Brad Federman recently wrote a the book Employee Engagement where he underscores the important role trust plays in driving employee engagement.

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