Yesterday I participated in a Twitter chat session on employee engagement. What an exciting and dynamic way to interact!
Most of the participants were seasoned HR professionals (you can tell because they call employees EE's), whereas I'm a hands-on leader with 30 years of wounds to prove it. It reinforced my view that there is often too much emphasis on indicators and initiatives, rather than finding ways to foster bottoms-up engagement.
A good chunk of the session revolved around the definition of employee engagement. Here two thirds of the responses revolved around how employees perceived the company. Things like did they wear company swag and did they speak proudly about the company to friends, together with perceptions around the honesty and trustworthiness of the company. All great indicators for sure.
Others took a more employee-centric approach to their definitions. I loved the employee voice in this one:
"I fit, I'm clear, I'm supported, I'm valued, I'm inspired" contributed by @csledzik
@dmarkschumann summed it up nicely "you know engagement is simple -- we all simply want to believe we matter -- silly us". Exactly.
The chat session then moved on to how best to foster engagement. Here the main themes were training/aligning leadership to reflect/communicate the company values/mission/plan, collecting feedback/ideas and acting on it, and establishing trust. All great initiatives for sure, but they lack connection to individual employees.
Potent engagement happens when each individual feels the power of their own contributions. This does not come from company-wide initiatives or values. It comes from seeing the relevance of your contributions to your collaborators, teammates and peers. Leaders can help with clear communication of tangible goals and recognition of individual contributions, but it is the detailed peer-to-peer understanding and collaboration that is really engages knowledge workers.