Tuesday Morning Focal Point

Employee Engagement – Its Not What You Think

There has been quite a trend over the last few years with leaders and HR departments talking about employee engagement.  It’s become a buzz phrase that folks grab onto, trying to figure out what it is and how to create it. Maybe as a way of somehow getting a leg up on others to recruit and retain employees, for instance.  It’s a hot topic for good reason.  The labour market is so challenging. Employers in most sectors are struggling to recruit and retain great talent.

I have paid a certain amount of attention to this topic. In doing so, realized that I have not yet seen a definition of employee engagement in literature that I believe fully captures what it is, simply from my experience in creating and building teams for almost 30 years.

What Employee Engagement is NOT

Some would distill employee engagement down to concepts like these:

  • Ensuring you are kind to your employees
  • Focusing energies on health and wellness for staff
  • Making employees happy
  • Paying your staff well
  • Giving workers access to great benefits
  • Investing in training for personnel
  • Promoting employees and helping them climb the corporate ladder

While these things are important; and may contribute in some way to employee engagement; none of them alone or even together, adequately describe what I believe true employee engagement to be.

What Employee Engagement IS

Employee engagement is the extent to which an employee understands and can articulate how his / her role in the company offers a meaningful contribution to what the company is working to achieve in the market.  Along with this, the employee must have the power to continuously co-create his or her function. To do so, the employee needs to be empowered to self-evaluate; thereby continually improving his / her role and function. Resulting in matching recognition and reward.

To me, anything less than this is not employee engagement.

Components of Employee Engagement

  1. Understanding the role. It is a phenomenon of interest to note how few employees can adequately articulate their role accountabilities. Furthermore, they do not know they are critical for the company to achieve its goals.
  2. Co-creation. Employees truly want to own what they do. With shared authority and responsibility for creating the function employees are better able to engage at a high level.  When we authentically invite employees to co-create their role, they will typically help craft a role that far better meets the company needs than if the executive creates it alone.
  3. Continuous improvement. “A” players in a company will always self evaluate and actualize towards greater productivity, if the company culture allows.  Nobody wants to suck at their job.  We must put processes and systems in place that allow and support individuals towards continuous improvement. This improvement includes both personal growth and greater achievement towards company purpose.
  4. Recognition and reward. This is not as simple as a paycheck.  A paycheck is one small part of the overall set of extrinsic and intrinsic rewards that must be well matched to the work that people do for us.  Getting employees involved in creating recognition and reward systems is a great option.  People want to achieve but also want and need to be properly acknowledged.  Remember, the salary aspect is a very small part of this equation.

Cameron’s Call to Action

  1. Reflect on your life and career and the extent to which the four key components above have impacted your level of engagement with critical roles and functions.
  2. Schedule some conversations with your executive team on each of the four key components of employee engagement above. Assess how you are doing and make an action plan for improvement.
  3. Call on us to come in and conduct an engagement survey with your team to better understand how you are doing regarding employee engagement. Furthermore, be sure to have us deliver one of our employee engagement workshops.
  4. Develop an action plan for assessing and improving employee engagement over the long term. Then watch the reduction in absenteeism, presenteeism and turnover. Resulting in, an improved bottom line and everyone thriving in the process.

 Cameron is an Executive Coach and Consultant specializing in business growth and creating psychologically healthy workplaces.