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What is the difference between engagement and indoctrination? Not a lot if the behaviour patterns of some organisations are anything to go by; but they also tend to be the businesses which really don’t ‘get’ the idea of a strong company culture. Herein lies the problem. When we talk and write about employee engagement, about capturing hearts and minds, about assimilating values there is always the assumption that engagement flows from a strong and ethical company culture.
When these, and other classic signs of disengagement, come to the fore then organisations are put on notice that there is some serious work to be done in addressing employee engagement and that some of that work may have to also reposition the beliefs and behaviours which underpin organisational culture. But what happens when high staff attrition is put down to the nature of the industry or when the induction programme inculcates a set of behaviours which masks any disengagement issues?
‘Have a nice day’.. ‘Is there anything else I can help you with’.. ‘Is everything alright with your meal.’
How to dress, phrases to use, tone of voice; all these can be taught at induction with the aim of presenting a unified company image but just because employees are parroting the company line doesn’t mean that they are engaged. Standing on a chair and being applauded when you get a sale may be company practice but it means little in the context of true engagement.
True engagement means assimilating the organisation’s beliefs and behaviours, not just on the surface but deep within. It means not just working for the organisation but caring about the organisation. It means being proud of the organisation and of its products and seeking every day to find ways to improve, to innovate and to provide exceptional levels of customer satisfaction.
Let’s look at an example. A colleague recently had cause to phone a company to query an order. The call centre employee was polite, offered to try and find out the answer and then phoned back promptly with the information. Full marks you would think. But in the course of the conversation the employee admitted to knowing nothing about the product; they read descriptions from the web and that was it. It there was a problem they asked someone but wouldn’t know if the information they received was accurate. In short, they carried out their call centre duties as instructed and their involvement ended there. Is that engagement? Not in our eyes it isn’t. Indoctrination yes; engagement no.
But for many companies, the idea that they may have an engagement problem only comes to the fore when there are obvious and outward signs of discontent. Employees who turn up on time, do what is expected and go home again are falsely assumed to be engaged, if any thought is given to them at all. They may not waste the full 46% of their salary that the Contact Centre identified as being the average cost of disengaged employees but they certainly aren’t giving full value.
The message is clear. Leaders who assume that everything is ‘jogging along quite nicely’, organisations which rely on indoctrinating employees in ‘the company way’ without looking at active engagement are letting down their organisations, their customers and their employees. So if you think that because everyone turns up every day looking smart in their uniform or uses the set phrases from the company manual they are engaged; think again. Revisit your culture, your beliefs and behaviours and take a good look at how much better it could be.