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In an ideal world engagement would result in our people being in tune with the vision, strategy and rhythm of the organisation
Okay; can we start by taking it as a given that employee engagement is a key ingredient of a successful organisation? It helps to drive profitability, customer service, innovation, reputation, and pretty much any other aspect of the business which you care to mention.
Can we also agree that despite near universal recognition of the importance of employee engagement, in far too many instances levels of engagement remains stubbornly low? Oh yes, and while we’re on the subject, let’s agree that giving your people sweets or toys to play with isn’t the answer!
So what is? I could write here about the benefits of a strong and positive organisational culture, attracting and retaining great employees who are actively encouraged to make a contribution. I could review self managed engagement programs which put engagement back in the hands of those who have the greatest stake in it. I could even write about leadership, about the way in which great leaders aren’t afraid to challenge and empower, in the process helping their people to make the most of their talents.
But whatever approach I choose, there is one fundamental which sits at the heart of engagement and that is your people. Quite simply employee engagement starts and ends with people. And funnily enough people aren’t formulas, they don’t respond to set patterns and there is no one size fits all solution. When you understand that and when you start interacting with your people as individuals then engagement takes a huge step forward.
Of course that type of approach means that engagement is no longer tick box exercise; but then if you thought it was you were never going to engage employees in anything other than looking for work elsewhere. And accepting that your employees are individuals also means accepting that they have lives outside work which may impact on a whole range of work factors including mood, attitude and focus. Work-life balance has become something of a cliché but by being prepared to adapt in order to help your employees to manage a range of situations including childcare or care for an elderly relative, you can help your people to bring a greater focus to the work element of their lives.
Now you may say that you know all this already but knowing and understanding are two very different things. It’s a bit like saying that sleep is good for us without really understanding what lies at the heart of the importance of sleep and what the effects of poor sleep can be. Building that understanding, delving into the complex processes which govern our body clocks has just won three US researchers the Nobel Prize for medicine. In the process they have helped to explain why a mismatch between internal body rhythms and lifestyle can affect everything from mood to our susceptibility to various diseases.
In an ideal world engagement would result in our people being in tune with the vision, strategy and rhythm of the organisation. Treating people as individuals, being adaptable in our approach to engagement may just help that ideal world to come a little bit closer.