Owning Engagement in Your Workplace

We’re going on well over fifteen years of thinking about employee engagement in organizations.  And after years of surveying employees and rolling organizational results into a macro look at our country, the results today have not changed much from when we first started the analysis.  What we know is companies that lose disengaged employees often see the negative impact of having lower profitability and higher recruiting expenses.

From a company perspective, there are always things that can be done to reach out to employees and make them feel valued.  What has changed in the last fifteen years is using technology to bolster engagement by creating solutions to aid in stronger organizational connections.  These can include solutions to:

  • Encourage mentor relationships- Employees who feel mentored know that someone in the organization cares about their development and career path.  This mentor relationship also creates an outlet for continuous communication, and feedback, so that the employee has a strong connection point.
  • Communicate more, not less- Being transparent, even in economic downturns, builds trust with employees.  They will be more likely to hang in there for the long run.  Additionally, letting an employee know how valuable they are to the company is key.
  • Allow and encourage some fun in the work day- Fun at work = employees who don’t dread being there.  You don’t have to be playing ping pong or foosball all day at work, but definitely encourage a culture of being able to step away from the desk to chat and congregate.  It also means providing technology to make collaboration and sharing easier.  And beyond the technology, having senior leaders who will use and champion the technology so that employees feel compelled to use it too.

But it’s not just about the company driving employee engagement.  In many organizations, employee engagement is looked at as the relationship between the employee and the company.  In actuality, it goes far beyond this and is the relationships that an individual employee builds with colleagues and clients that truly indicate how likely the employee is to stay with the organization.  Engagement is also a set of behaviors an employee must embrace in order to make the connections that will be lasting.  So, what can you do as an employee to build that relationship?

Ways to foster your own engagement

  • Volunteer to do more
  • Be more active (in the group, the topic, etc.)
  • Look for ways to improve, then implement them
  • Take ownership for what goes well and where you need to improve
  • Get “fired up” and use your passion
  • Be loyal
  • Build trusting relationships

The take away for me is it’s about focusing on the relationship, not the individual inputs  and levers.

What do you think?  What would you add to the list?

7 thoughts on “Owning Engagement in Your Workplace

  • January 5, 2017 at 9:10 am
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    Good article but you’re way off pegging this at 15 years. It used to be called “Job Involvement” until about 1995, though. Here’s a gem from 1976 outlining the exact same issues as the post you published today: http://amj.aom.org/content/19/2/213.short <- We'll get it right one day.

    Appreciate your insights and advice – keep blogging, Trish!

  • January 5, 2017 at 9:32 am
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    Engagement is also a component of Organizational Commitment vs a stand alone component. It only become a stand alone when someone found it easier to do a few things vs. address the big issue of Org. Commitment.

  • January 6, 2017 at 2:32 pm
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    Hi Trish,

    Employers only started thinking about retention and employee enrichment programs at that time which I think is why we’ve seen so much change in the last 15 years not to mention the increased reliance on technology and the internet. I had an interesting podcast interview not too long ago with David Sturt on the subject: http://www.workology.com/ep-62-employee-engagement-workplace-productivity/.

    It’s so interesting how things change but they really stay the same.

    Glad you’re back!

    JMM

  • January 16, 2017 at 11:39 am
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    Hi, I agree with all the points above. There is also the need to create challenging assignments for the employees. The right person for the right job. Creating a right career path for the individuals as well as managers and making it transparent and visible also promotes employee engagement.
    Employees would like to know where they are moving next. A comprehensive talent management would also help. Apart from this, regular feedback from their managers on how they are doing in their job and feedback on work improvement, also helps in employee engagement in many ways.
    I know it is difficult to create a sense of purpose, but if organizations are helping the employees in some way or the other on this aspect, then I think this helps employee engagement tremendously as well. This is just my opinion. I liked reading through your post. I enjoyed it. Thank you. I will come back again to visit other posts. Cheers, Ramkumar

  • January 16, 2017 at 11:20 pm
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    Thanks for the comment Matt. Your reference certainly takes it back further than I did. 🙂 I only said “well over 15 years” because I was going off when the term was coined in 1990 in the Academy of Management Journal by William A. Kahn. It did not start gaining wide measurement until 15- 20 years ago. At any rate, suffice to say that the point was it is not new. What I wish we could figure out after all these years is how to improve that relationship in a measurable, meaningful way. It’s such a unique experience. Bet if we could figure that out, we’d retire today.
    Thanks again for weighing in. We’re all smarter when we collectively collaborate.

  • January 16, 2017 at 11:21 pm
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    Thanks for reading/ commenting and sharing a great resource! I’ll definitely check out that episode and hope the readers do too!

  • January 16, 2017 at 11:23 pm
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    @Paul, you say it far more eloquently than I did. The magic combination of a workplace that has real commitment as well as an employee who feels individually committed leads to the most engaged situations. Any resources you’d recommend for further reading?

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