“What is all this about engagement? Is this your department’s new buzz word to replace empowerment? In 40 words or less, tell me what this is.”
I was happy to respond. It was a candid, fair request. I also had a great relationship with the leader. I knew that this was a transparent question. He knew that if I didn’t have a legitimate response, I would candidly tell him it was empty talk. I’m sure others questioned in the same way, but acted like they understood and that they were in full support. These are the ones that make it difficult to be successful, not the leaders that demand that we make it plain.
Engagement is not empty words. There are real benefit – personal, organizational, even societal (See this article by Gallup Workers in Bad Jobs Have Worse Wellbeing Than Jobless).
Think of the best person you’ve ever worked with. The person whose contribution was so impacting and valuable that they top your list.
Think of your own Personal Bests – a time when you were at your peak performance making a motivating and meaningful contribution.
Simpler…think of the last film or activity where you lost track of space and time because you were locked in – a state of flow.
What words would you use to describe these states? What are the benefits of bringing more of this to the workplace?
I responded: “Challenge accepted! Employee engagement is a condition that yields higher levels of Organizational Citizenship Behaviors – discretionary effort that cannot be achieved through punishment or reward, and improved intent to stay. Let’s discuss in our 1:1 Thursday. Do I get bonus points for the hundred-dollar words?”
His response: “Thanks. I don’t give points for big words. Next challenge will have a character count instead of word count.”
Engagement isn’t visible, but it’s effects are:
- higher productivity through increased discretionary effort
- affinity to the organization
- intent to stay / retention
- greater contribution
- increased innovation
An individual’s level of engagement is the extent they are emotionally invested in their work, team and organization. It influences our behavior similar to a belief or value. Through it we experience, interpret, decide and act.
Most research and change initiatives are centered around measuring the level of engagement and engagement drivers that cause these desired effects. There are many companies working to help organizations in this way. Comparing their studies and tools reveals agreement on key drivers:
- Trust in leaders – confidence x competence x commitment of managers
- Relationship with manager – I have a relationship and personal connection to my manager
- The work itself – work is stimulating and meaningful
- Knows outcomes – line of sight how what I do contributes to performance
- Leverages strengths – I’m able to contribute what I am best at
- Learning and personal growth – I learn and become more effective and valuable
- Team pride – I’m a member of a strong team
- Recognition – recognition is fair and consistent in appreciation of high performance