The Workplace Courtship
Engagement or Cold Feet?
Having recently attended a three day event about employee engagement, I was excited to learn about what companies were doing to successfully drive, increase and support what we’ve all come to know and appreciate as “employee engagement.” Here’s the takeaway: Engagement is purely a result. It’s not a strategy in and of itself. Most companies who are any good at getting engagement are really just feeling their way through until they realize they’ve got a good mix that’s actually working. It feels a little bit like organizational alchemy. But there are two key ingredients.
Engagement happens when a company can 1) effectively and consistently set and deliver on organizational and job role expectations with a line of sight to personal expectations. 2) Your organization lives up to it’s operational integrity – meaning that your company drives meaning outside the realm of “shareholder value.” For example, you have a philosophy and standards of performance around things like: sustainability, inclusiveness, service, design and innovation etc. Engagement comes from actionable, discussed, reviewed and rewarded behaviors that bring the website, coffee mug and break room poster platitudes to life. Engagement is about making your organizational purpose “real.” So, when was the last time your top team talked about that?
For organizational purpose to be real it’s got to show up all the time. It’s got to be part of the conversation during process development, performance feedback, hiring, re-structuring, planning, budgeting, etc. Purpose is a shared thing. It gives meaning to the work that every person in the company is doing, and clear understanding of the purpose is baseline for engagement building. It’s the context upon which success is achieved. Starting to understand why “engagement” can be a little elusive?
When you step back, the simple version really gets down to this: stop just telling people what to do. Explain why? Then ask them how that fits with who they are. Then bolster the fit; or discuss why it’s not a fit for them (as a lot of disengagement comes from bad job fit). Many company managers assume that folks can always connect the dots, especially if an employee has been in an organization for some time. However, that’s when keeping engagement is critical. Sustaining, over time, a personal connection and enthusiasm for the work, the company and the purpose is key. It’s what defines success in terms of your engagement alchemy. As managers – you need to be connecting the dots all the time time, out loud.
So why isn’ t that happening? It seem pretty easy. My guess is, the dots are not connecting for management either. Leadership has not connected the dots of where the organization is headed and why at the outset. Without clarity of purpose (purpose of the company, the job role, the team, the task), how can you even begin to set expectations, design standards to support that purpose let alone get full engagement?!