Employee Engagement? – It’s Up To You.
Engagement is down to the individual.
Without doubt one of the biggest workplace issues of today is employee engagement. I regularly get invited to speak on the topic and there seems to be an endless amount of research reminding us about how poor organisations are at engaging their people.
Report after report tells us that fewer than a third of employees are actively engaged at work. This, they seem to claim, is the fault of employers or managers who just don’t care about the people stuff. If they only offered better benefits, or free lunches, a pool table, or allowed dress down days, employees would re-engage and give their best efforts – then all would be well with the world of employment.
I’m not saying that employers and managers don’t make a difference to employee engagement levels, they definitely do. The mistake many managers make , however , is to believe that engagement is something you can do to other people via some sort of top down initiative.
The theory goes that if you act a certain way your employees will in return give you their discretionary effort. The problem is that employee engagement doesn’t happen at a global level it happens at the level of the individual employee.
It’s certainly true that customers won’t love your company unless your people love working for you, but the truth is you can’t make someone love their employer. You can make a conscious effort to be more attractive to them and earn their ‘love’; and conversely there are a myriad of ways to drive someone away – but only the individual employee can decide whether they fall in love with their employer or not. Engagement, just like motivation, is an internal energy particular to the person in question.
Even the most dysfunctional organisations have a mix of people. In any sector you have a mix of people who are actively engaged, positive and totally committed to helping their organisation meet it’s objectives. Most of the people in organisations are doing what they’re supposed to do, and giving satisfactory performance. Of course you also have the people who are negative, disruptive or outright destructive. What one of my clients calls the internal terrorists!
My experience is that people who are actively engaged choose to be engaged. The ones who aren’t might blame external factors like the employer, the economy, their home life or the results of the latest government election, but at the end of the day it’s a pretty consistent percentage of the organisations population that falls into each camp.
That’s why employee engagement surveys should ask ‘engaging’ questions. Rather than “were you engaged at work today?” which implies that there are multiple external factors at work, start with something like. “Did I do my best to be engaged?” or “Did I do my best to reach good results for my customers?” Those questions create an entirely different mind set.
If some of the questions are followed up with, “how can we help?” or “how did we get in the way?” – management can uncover ways to help people engage. You can’t force engagement on people, but you can help them engage.
I’m certainly not saying that some companies don’t do an awful lot to create conditions under which people actively disengage. Working conditions, pay, benefits, manager-employee relationships and even dress down days all can help or hinder your efforts to engage people. At the end of the day, however, it’s up to each employee.
Our workplaces might be absolutely crazy and even stress inducing but it is up to the individual how they responds, whether there are dress down days or not.
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By David Tovey
David Tovey helps sales teams, business owners and professionals to build amazing business relationships, win more business and accelerate profitable growth.