Employee Engagement = Involvement

It’s the HR coordinators meeting. You hear the words reaching for the coffee pot. The first part of the conversation you miss, but the word you do catch says it all: engagement. You slump back in your chair and turn to the speaker, ‘congratulations,’ you say, ‘when’s the wedding?’ It’s only then, red-faced, superman mug in hand, you realise you got the wrong end of the stick. ‘Oh, employee engagement.’

Here’s the thing, employee engagement as business speak is up there with eco-system, amplify and leverage: all meaningful phrases but ones that disguise complexity because of the banality of the buzzword.

Seems harsh? Let’s look at employee engagement, that Holy Grail for organizations looking to get the best out of their teams. On the surface the meaning’s obvious: getting employees engaged. And the way to do that also seems obvious: issue employee surveys; hold feedback sessions to ‘pulse check’ where employees stand.

The Engagement Merry-Go-Round

If feedback shows low engagement we might start a round of development programmes, hold team building events and then do more staff surveys. All as an attempt to get people engaged. There’s nothing wrong with gathering information or having an energizing afternoon away from the office. The problem is they don’t help to engage employees.

The truth that simple phrase hides is what we’re trying to engage people in. Think about that for a second. If the answer is my business, how does a fun afternoon or a survey engage people in your business? The simple answer is it doesn’t.

Employee engagement is the end result, the fruit if you like, of increased interest in your business. And that comes from having people involved in your business.

What gets people interested is having a say in things that affect them. What gets them involved is participating in finding solutions to their workplace challenges.

Why Involvement Makes Business Sense

If the idea of getting your teams more involved in your business leaves you excited and nervous then congratulations. It means you know what’s at stake.

But if not, let’s take a second to remind ourselves why involving staff makes good business sense. First off involved employees have higher levels of job satisfaction. More job satisfaction means more productivity. And those results will be visible in your bottom line.

But the benefits don’t end there. Expect absence from sickness and staff turnover to be reduced. That means savings in training and hiring. Put those together and your organization becomes a great place to work and more profitable.

And here’s the gem: none of that has to mean more work for you.

Creating Leaders At All Levels

If creating involvement in your business means changing systems and processes it’s understandable that the prospect of making those changes yourself can be daunting. So how about another approach?

Research published in the European Management Journal that canvassed top public sector figures calls for leadership at all levels rather than simply putting more people into leadership roles in the existing hierarchy. Turning concepts of leadership on its head, the approach encourages staff to take part in activities and decisions rather than promoting people to management or creating new levels of management.

And the real world application of that idea? It’s involvement again. How about allowing people to design and implement their own changes under the guidance of senior management? What would that be like?

Well, allowing people to develop and implement their own ideas increases the likelihood of successful implementation but it also means embedding that change is easier. Why? For the simple reason that people who design and implement a change are invested in its long-term success.

And what is employee engagement if not people invested and involved in the long-term success of the organization they work for?

Author: Joe Britto

Joe is a psychological coach, writer, interactive consultant and founder of Innate Leaders. He works with a wide range of leaders from organizations including non-profits as well as the public and private sectors. His work focuses on creating long term sustainable change by developing a leadership mindset throughout an organization.

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