Employee Engagement – A Personal Reflection
April 01 2019 - by Dr. Lois Parkes, CLP's Regional Project Manager
A common question that I get asked by senior executives is, “How can I get my team or employees to be more engaged?” According to the SHRM Research Overview on Employee Engagement, employee engagement is linked to a number of critical human capital and organisational outcomes. With this in mind, there has been a steady increase in organizational initiatives geared at measuring, tracking and managing employee engagement.[i] Notwithstanding, the attainment of high levels of employee engagement remains an elusive goal.
In pondering the reasons for the elusiveness of employee engagement, I reflected on my own experience of working in various teams, contexts and organisations, and the times when I would define myself as being engaged or disengaged. These are the personal insights that my reflections unearthed:
- To engage or disengage – that is my choice: Irrespective of the number of meetings, staff parties, engagement surveys or employee of the month prizes, the individual employee has to exercise the choice as to whether he or she will be engaged. This is not to say that organizational initiatives, practices and culture do not influence employee engagement. However, for effective employee engagement to take place, the employee has to believe that it is a worthwhile investment of their passion to become fully engaged, based on their perceived level of alignment between the organisation’s goals and values and their own. This then begs the question, “What are the values and goals of employees that an organization can tap into to get high level of employee engagement?” These may very well vary from individual to individual. However, from my personal reflection, there are some goals and values that influence engagement.
- Clarity and Logic of Vision: Employees generally cannot engage in a vision or purpose that they do not understand, is unclear, and makes no logical sense to them. Clarity and logic of vision also has to go beyond vision and mission statements to get employees truly engaged. These have to be backed up by real, meaningful, consistent and focused actions and passion on the part of the leaders. As the old adage goes, leaders have to walk the talk. They have to follow through on their commitments. A disengaged leader cannot expect to have an engaged team.
- Tolerance of Questions and Dissent: This may not be true for everyone, but personally, when I have many questions, and even pose questions to challenge the assumptions of the stated vision or purpose, that is actually an indication of a high level of engagement. It means I actually care about the organization achieving the best possible outcomes. An environment where there is no tolerance for questions and dissent, is one that is actually encouraging employee disengagement. Few questions, silence, everyone agreeing (or seeming to agree) – these are all signs of employee disengagement. A leader who wants an engaged team has to have the willingness and humility to be open to being challenged and questioned.
In short, my highest levels of engagement have been influenced by:
- working with other leaders and team members where we shared a passion for a common vision that I wholeheartedly bought into; and
- Being free to contribute my perspective without fear of retribution.
My reflection also revealed to me that I could be performing my job well as a professional, while simultaneously being disengaged.
Having done this reflection, these questions then remain:
- For those who I lead, what are their own goals and values? How can I as a leader create alignment between employee and organizational goals and values?
- Have I done my best to provide for my team the positive influencers of employee engagement?
As you read this blog, please share your own perspective on what influences employee engagement.