15th June 2012
The word ‘Engagement’ is thrown around and discussed a lot in the HR field as a truly fundamental element to driving business success, not just for the immediate time but for future growth and profitable results.
But what does ‘Engagement’ actually mean in today’s businesses and what can be gained with investing in this topic?
If we refer of the traditional meaning of ‘Engagement’, we often think of personal commitment or partnership, which in reality in a business, isn’t too different from working practises that support a two way approach between employer and employee; after all when a new person joins a business and has gone through the interview process, a professional working relationship commences. Due to business pressures and the ‘day job’ however, the continuous development of this relationship can sometimes falter and not be addressed, which in turn can imbed a negative employee expectation and employer status (the ‘them and us’ scenario).
‘Engagement’ is the continuous development of an emotional relationship. We aren’t talking of standard emotions that come to mind of love and hate (well, I hope not to that degree!) but more towards an emotive grounding of a sense of belonging; feeling part of something and gaining something in return, whether that be increased trust, confidence, knowledge, understanding or commitment.
In a business sense it’s the emotional level the individual has with their manager, team and organisation.
How businesses get it wrong is to refer to ‘Engagement’ as an action, rather than aiming to implement it as a cultural norm or expectation. For example I’ve come across businesses that say ‘Every Wednesday is Engagement day, when we get cakes in’.
Whilst in essence this small gesture is no doubt appreciated to a degree, but what happens on the other 4 working days of the week? Longer term, this practice could be considered paying ‘lip service’ and staff could become cynical over this ‘Engagement’ activity.
There isn’t a hard or fast set rule on the most effective way to engage employees for all businesses; you know your people, business sector, culture and values – it’s aligning those to your Engagement Strategy and processes that will really link your employees to the environment you wish to create and work within.
A starting place is to look at how effective internal communication is?
Do employees have a voice? Are they dictated to, or are they involved in any decision making process?
For SMEs, there is a perfect opportunity to set a framework for engagement that suits the business, is practical to uphold and really cements a continuously developing relationship from day one of employment.
At a very basic level, just saying ‘Good morning’ or ‘Thanks for your assistance’ goes a long way as a start.
Effective Engagement, when done properly, can reduce turnover (and all associated financial and non financial costs), create a working environment of dedicated, motivated and committed employees who know where they fit in the business, what they contribute and what they get back (recognition, development, rewards).
Just remember, like in any relationship we all ask the same questions:
1. What do I give?
2. What do I get?
3. How do I belong?
4. How do I develop?
It’s no different in our businesses with our employees!
Scott Maddy MCIPD