Discretionary effort is usually described as the level of effort an employee gives beyond the required minimum for their job. It is the area where an employee is going beyond what they have to do for their job and potentially achieving greater productivity and results for the company. In a company with employees using maximum discretionary effort one would expect to see high achieving results and high engagement. Discretionary effort is directly linked to employee engagement because as engagement rises, so does discretionary effort. At least, that is the common thinking on the subject. Employee engagement scores measure how people feel in relation to their work and employer. It is not a direct measure of productivity, but is an indirect leading indicator of attrition, absenteeism, and productivity.
An organization which can measure the level of discretionary effort output of its employees has an amazing piece of data and differentiator. It is like the speed gauge in your car. However, the challenge is how to directly measure it. Employee engagement measures the sentiment in your organization which you can then use to extrapolate a wealth of additional data, discretionary effort being one of them. It has most famously been used to show highly engaged organizations perform better. For example, Gallup says EPS growth rates are 3.9 times higher for highly engaged companies. I suspect the problem remains for most C-Suites that correlational data is not compelling enough to invest a great deal in employee engagement programs.
I believe the data to measure discretionary effort is right there on a company’s server. It is entirely possible to data mine internet/intranet traffic, email, calendars, and time card information to develop and accurate picture of level of effort. Collecting data on the amount of time employees are in meetings, actively using their resources, and engaging with coworkers, customers, and contacts says everything about their discretionary effort. Direct observation is also the best way to get commitment from executives to act. There are no correlations involved or required. We could see actual behaviors throughout the day which tie directly to productivity.Read more