Right now, at this moment, today, how engaged are your employees? If your answer is based on the annual survey which was carried out three months ago and landed on your desk this morning then in all honesty you are pretty much in the dark about engagement levels in your company. As with organisational culture, engagement is an ever-evolving being and unless your organisation is frozen in some type of stasis then the only thing that three month old statistics are likely to tell you is that if you had a problem then, you’ve got a far worse one now.
If on the other hand you have introduced an employee led online engagement programme that not only are you far more likely to have been able to answer my question with a degree of confidence, it is a fair bet that engagement levels are reasonable at the very least. You see, if you are looking to build relatively high levels of employee engagement as an intrinsic part of the organisation’s culture then it is vital that you have your finger on the pulse of engagement, and employee led programs help you to do this.
But even here such programs shouldn’t be seen as the be all and end all of your engagement programme. Leaders who really care about engagement and about their people generally need to work on building a level of awareness and anticipation which not only asks the engagement question as part of every decision but also is alert for the first signs of trouble. There are plenty of clues out there, but would you know which ones to look for?
It’s an interesting question and one which was brought to mind by an article in the Washington Post. The article highlighted the way in which smart surveillance cameras are being used in public places to spot the unusual and alert the authorities. The examples given within the article are fairly simple (no we’re not going to tell you what they are – we’ll leave you to have a go and see if you can spot the danger signs) and in nine out of ten cases are completely innocent but nevertheless the extra warning given to authorities can help to prevent negative incidents. Smart cameras programmed with surveillance algorithms are already being trialled in number of cities.
Now we’re not suggesting here that you populate your hallways with surveillance cameras but it might be a good idea to give leaders at all levels of your organisation a quick refresh on employee engagement theory and the need to watch out for danger signals. For example, whilst chats around the water cooler are generally a healthy sign, if they break up as soon as anyone in authority comes near it may be a sign of trouble ahead. Similarly, there are always going to be people who join an organisation and then decide it’s not for them but if the early departures turnover rate starts to rise above background levels you should be asking why.
As leaders, you will already know what is normal for your organisation, your department, your team. Simply by being alert for changes enables you to act quickly, to introduce employee engagement initiatives which will address the problem and boost engagement in the long-term. When it comes to employee engagement strategies, a combination of awareness and anticipation is and should be your first line of defence.