Ever had that feeling whilst driving that you’ve arrived at your destination but don’t know how you got there?

I’ve been travelling quite a bit recently and I’ve experienced (not for the first time) that unnerving feeling of arriving at a destination but not really being sure how I’ve managed it.

A large part of the journey is a bit of blank – my mind had wandered.  Apparently this is quite common and is often referred to as ‘task unrelated thought’.  People report having little or no memory of what has happened in their surrounding environment whilst pre-occupied with their thoughts.

Now, clearly I was still driving and arrived safely at my destination but it seems I cannot have been fully concentrating on the job in hand (driving my car!) I was not fully engaged in an ‘attention demanding task’.

The link with employee engagement

Now what is interesting is that the same thing can occur at work.  If your job is not mentally stimulating or doesn’t (at least sometimes) grab your attention – your mind is going to wander.  I’m sure we’ve all experienced this – be it driving or doing some other task.

As Daniel H. Pink make clear in ‘Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us‘, studies clearly show that in terms of employee engagement and drive, when a task requires at least rudimentary levels of cognitive skill people are far, far more productive and far more engaged in the work that they do.

We’ve also seen this in our work.  I remember clearly working with a client who provided a call centre service for a large UK water company.  We were working with them to understand what was driving very high levels of staff turnover.  We identified one area of the organisation where engagement was very high and correlated with lower levels of turnover.  Oddly, it was the area of the organisation that was responsible for ‘debt collection’ – not, immediately, an area where you would expect high levels of employee engagement.

The reasons, however, were clear.  This group was not scripted; they had to use their interpersonal skills to work with clients (some of whom were not in good financial positions) to ensure bills were paid.  In short, they had to use their brains – it required their full attention.

What proved very successful was that the organisation was able to take some of the approaches used by this team and apply to other areas.  In short, this helped them reduce their staff turnovers levels to less than half the average for call centre’s in the UK.

Think about your own organisation. Are there groups, divisions or teams that have low staff turnover and consistently get good results? If so, then the chances are those employees are highly motivated — and you can learn from them to improve employee engagement in other areas of your business.

Perhaps we can help you? We’d love to hear from you.