You hire for cultural fit. The leadership team have been on a workshop which examines the challenges of working across cultural boundaries. You are fully up to speed with the latest thinking on discrimination and equality in the workplace.
So what is missing? Why is it that despite all of your efforts employee engagement remains stubbornly low? Okay, there could be lots of reasons but let’s just look at the opening statements again. Could it be that all the activity is concentrated in the top tier? The leadership and HR teams have probably been having a great time going on courses and attending workshops but what about everyone else? Do they even know how valued they are?
You see, it’s all very well going on courses, building personal understanding and moderating your attitude and expectations; but if all of this activity stops at the top tier, then quite frankly you still have a problem with your organisational culture and employee engagement approach. So what is the answer; how do you move engagement initiatives from the top team into the organisation?
One simple answer is the use of self managed employee engagement programs in which the responsibility for engagement sits firmly in the hands of the employees. It’s an area which we have explored before and will return to again but for the purposes of this article we are going to leave self managed programs to one side and instead concentrate on the approach of the leadership team.
When you hire for cultural fit, when you work across cultural or age or experience boundaries then it is fairly safe to say that everyone in the organisation will have something special to add to the mix. The courses which you have been on may have helped you to be aware of these special qualities but they may have been more geared towards helping the leadership to build understanding and approach rather than anything else.
For example, a global organisation may have identified countries or regions of the world which have particular strengths in following processes, in managing projects through to completion, or in innovating new solutions. Or perhaps a single site organisation may have identified certain individuals or groups of individuals who are natural leaders or doers or creators. The leadership may therefore be looking to maximise these skills through the way that the organisation is structured or tasks allocated.
But this is a very top-down exercise and individuals and teams concerned may not even be aware that the actions which they are being asked to carry out are on the basis of aptitudes identified. They may therefore try to suppress those qualities which make them special in a bid to conform to what they see as the organisational norm. Even worse, an individual may have been hired because the leadership saw something in them which they could bring to the organisation but individuals then try to suppress those special qualities in order to ‘fit in’ with the existing culture.
How much more could be achieved with dialogue? How much more can people bring to organisational culture and success when they are given the freedom to bring their strengths and abilities to their work, safe in the knowledge that the organisation not only understand what their strengths are but also actively values them? And how much more engaged will people become when they know they are seen as valued individuals rather than as part of an amorphous mass?
We’re not saying that the leadership should stop going on courses, should stop building their own levels of understanding and empathy. The lesson is that courses alone are not enough. Effective employee engagement comes from employees feeling that they are valued. What better way to do this than to leave them in no doubt about the way in which you see their strengths boosting the team and then to work with them in order to further enhance those strengths and abilities for the benefit of all.