In many respects it’s encouraging to hear the building buzz about employee engagement. But in some senses it has the unfortunate effect of a nagging ice-cream headache.
That’s got a lot to do with the number of prevailing misconceptions as much as the volume of the shouting about them.
Some of the most common engagement myths being perpetuated are:
- that engagement is solely about discretion
- that it’s just down to organisations to some how generate “it”
- that it’s always positive
Blessing White, for example, undertakes a global engagement survey every three years. They define engagement as “someone who is both maximally satisfied with their job and makes a substantial contribution to their organization”. On that basis, their last survey informs us that employees in India are the most engaged.
Having set up countless internal communication functions across industries, supported hr teams through change programmes; marketing teams developing brands and having worked on the engagement frontline during most of the key phases in its evolution, we have a slightly different take on the engagement debate.
We believe that employee engagement is very much a two-way-street. Sure, there’s a very clear business case for organisations to embrace the concept and include it in their core strategy. They need to be very clear about what their brand stands for, vision, mission, values, behaviours and core culture. This, in effect, represents the internal brand promise which has a very direct causal relationship with reputation. But there’s an equal and complementary obligation on individuals.
It is incumbent upon all of us to understand our personal goals, aspirations, values and preferences; the way we behave; our motivators, our personal brand if you will. Why? Because it’s at the interface between the individual and organisation brand that true engagement happens.
So what’s true engagement? Well, we believe that engagement isn’t necessarily positive. In the raw, engagement is simply an attraction, a connection. We’re temporarily as engaged watching car crash tv as we are watching Band Aid or one of our cult heroes. But the engagement event doesn’t always inspire us to pick up a guitar or put our hands in our pocket. In an organisation context, cynics, for example, are often hugely engaging, as rebels often are.
From an organisation perspective, it’s clearly critical to engage people for a long time and with the right things if the outcome is going to be a good time for a long time for both parties. Sustainable engagement comes from within, it is key and that means generating enough of a connection between enough of the people to generate:
– great business results for all stakeholders
– employee advocacy
– a culture that can sustain this
At the core of this engagement relationship is authenticity – people being informed and honest about themselves and organisations being clear and honest about their brand for the sake of all stakeholder groups.
So, enough of the noise already implying that engagement is optional. Enough chatter implying that it’s a nice to have or the sole responsibility of HR departments within the organisations themselves. Enough of the relentless muttering about definitions and whether you’re a CEO or a ceo, in the immortal words of a global brand leader, “just do it”!