If You Want Engaged Employees, Stop Chasing The Cult Of ‘Employee Engagement’

August 29, 2017
August 29, 2017 Joe Britto

What’s the purpose of an employee engagement program? If we took a straw poll of HR professionals we’d probably get a few different responses. Maybe it’s to deal with silo working; a corrosive ‘us and them’ mentality; or teams not sharing best practice and competing with each other.

These are all real headaches that need solving. So it’s not surprising that improved employee engagement is the Holy Grail for many HR functions now.

Given that, it may be a risky business to call out employee engagement programs as a waste of precious resources. After all, employee engagement is a big trend in HR. And all too often the end result is employee engagement initiatives that don’t create the real change that organizations are looking for.

The reason for that is simple: silos, a lack of sharing and divisions between management and employees aren’t actually problems of employee engagement. Neither do these problems spring from a lack of collaboration, low staff motivation, or poor communications.

All of these are symptomatic of a different challenge.

And that’s a lack of employee involvement in the organization.

Employee Engagement Vs Employee Involvement

What’s the difference between engagement and involvement?

Engagement is taking the temperature of employee satisfaction.

Involvement is directly involving employees in finding solutions to the workplace issues that affect them. And high levels of employee engagement are the end result of that process.

The key question is whether high involvement organizations have an edge over others in their field. After all, our workplaces aren’t short on useful concepts now reduced to banal buzzwords. Agile, ecosystem, amplify. We don’t want to add involvement to the list.

If we’re going to make employee involvement a cornerstone in building an effective organization we need to know it’s not just a management fad.

Well the answer is yes. Involvement does make businesses more competitive. And it’s backed up by research. From corporates to non-profits, from the factory floor to call centres. It’s clear high employee involvement improves performance.

Building An Employee Involvement Mindset

Still, designing and implementing high involvement working practices isn’t a quick job.

The way we think about employee involvement is crucial to its success. And that success depends on shifting mindsets: the backbone for everything we do. And that’s true across all aspects of our work and lives. For individuals and organizations.

What if we approach employee involvement without looking at the mindset we’re bringing along for the ride? Well, we may not get the results we’re looking for.

So how do we cultivate the right mindset to pave the way for increased employee involvement?

Want Employee Involvement? Get Curious And Let Others Lead

Let’s say our end goal is frontline teams designing and implementing their own system changes, within criteria for success set by senior leadership. Then to be successful that senior team needs a mindset that values two key things. Genuine curiosity and the desire to create leaders in others.

A mindset of genuine curiosity brings honesty and open conversations to the table. Add to that an understanding of other points of view and being comfortable in the unknown. Both essential when you’re changing established systems.

Creating a platform for others to lead builds an open, cohesive and interconnected team. Because when a curious mindset takes you into the unknown, your team needs to be able to rely on each other.

Start by cultivating these mindset qualities and you’ll create fertile ground for a culture of employee involvement. And because they’re involved in finding their own solutions, your teams are invested in the long term success of any change they make.

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


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What to dive deeper?

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