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The Crux of the Employee Engagement Conundrum: Engagement to What?

Posted by Irvine, Derek at Monday, 12/17/2012 1:22 pm
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3.4 from 10 votes
Recognize This! – All efforts to increase employee engagement will fail unless individuals clearly see the meaningfulness and value of their contributions and efforts.

One of my go-to UK bloggers on all thing related to Human Capital Management (HCM) is Jon Ingham and his Strategic HCM blog. In particular, I enjoy posts in which he acts as a reporter for sessions and conferences he attends (and he attends a good many around the world).

While I’m a bit jealous at times of Jon for the sessions he’s been a part of, I am grateful to him for his concise, thoughtful posts about the content and outcomes. One example is today’s post on an Engage for Success conference. (Engage for Success is the outcome of several years of concerted effort in the UK to research, assess and drive employee engagement.)

Jon points out in the post:

Quotation“I also like David’s key premise that there’s no reason why employees should want to be engaged. In particular some people only work for instrumental reasons – they get their engagement elsewhere. We therefore have to earn an engaged response. Lack of engagement is therefore an enormous management failure.”

Jon then goes on to post screen shots of the presenter’s (David Guest) slides showing his 12 “policies and practices to encourage engagement.” I’m listing those 12 below for those who may find the images hard to read:

1. Present, promote and live by a set of clear organisational values about workforce management.
2. Select staff with propensity for engagement
3. Invest in human capital and employability
4. Extensive two-way communication
5. Reward (promote) managers on quality of management of staff within a balanced scorecard
6. Demonstrate positive organisational support
7. Develop and maintain a relational psychological contract
8. Optimise job security and flexible working
9. Promote fairness of treatment and trust in management – including through employee voice
10. Design jobs to build in autonomy, challenge, and full utilisation of skills
11. Promote self-efficacy – through feedback/guidance
12. Provide a challenging but manageable workload

I don’t disagree with anything in this list – all are critical to helping create an environment in which employees want to engage. So what makes me share this with you? It’s Jon’s last comment in his post about what he’d add to the list: “The answer to the question ‘engagement to what?’”

Indeed, that’s the crux of the employee engagement conundrum. Yes, we all want our employees to be more engaged. Likely, many of us wish that we could be more engaged ourselves. But we’ll never arrive there – no matter what we do or what environment we create – if we don’t answer the question of “engagement to what?”

Some will always see “work” as an end to a means and will never engage as fully as we like. But if we can give employees a clear line of sight into why their work is meaningful within a bigger picture and how each person, individually, is critical to achieving that bigger picture, then we create a vision that’s worthy of engagement.

What’s your answer to the question “engagement to what?”

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