Employees choose how much discretionary energy to exert on your behalf in the workplace. Discretionary energy is the energy that an employee chooses to exert in service to coworkers or customers at work. As an employer, your goal is to tap into as much of it as possible. Employee discretionary energy is the oil that keeps the motor of a successful organization running.
Think of employee discretionary energy as a powerful performance enhancer. Successful managers understand the power of discretionary energy and take conscious action to tap into it at work. Managers draw forth and enable employee discretionary energy use by creating a work environment that empowers and enables employees to choose to perform.
The Work Environment That Promotes the Use of Employee Discretionary Energy
The work environment that encourages employee discretionary energy contribution emphasizes such components as:
- clear goals and performance expectations,
- rewards and recognition for accomplishment,
- ongoing feedback,
- a commitment to communication,
- frequent performance coaching,
- managerial attention and support,
- employee satisfaction,
- employee motivation, and
- employee development opportunities (not just classes).
Employee Discretionary Energy in Action
As an example of discretionary energy in action, Mary serves customers in a retail store. She escorts customers to a dressing room in which the customer tries on clothing. When the customer is finished, Mary puts the clothes away and brings the customer back to the floor while offering any additional assistance the customer needs.
An employee who is empowered, happy, and committed to her work takes the service one step further. She uses her discretionary energy to better serve the customer and to improve her employer's sales.
Mary, using her discretionary energy, asks the customer, while still in the dressing room, whether she can bring her an item that isn't working in another size or color. She escorts the customer to the floor and suggests additional items, that might work for the customer, based on what the customer appears to have liked already. Mary remembers to give the customer a coupon for an upcoming sale or offers to match the prices of the sale that begins tomorrow.
Enable More Use of Employee Discretionary Energy
You can't pay people enough to remember to go the extra mile, but you can produce a work environment in which your employees will choose to exert that discretionary energy.
From an employer's point of view, the more employee discretionary energy that you can tap, the better the potential for well-served customers. You also increase your potential for happy employees. A happy employee is positively interacting with customers and coworkers and experiencing all of the work benefits that accrue as a result of these positive interactions.