Type “what is engagement?” into Google and you’re faced with four differing definitions. Obvious references to marriage aside, the first three resonate with what, on paper, organisations ideally want from their employee engagement programmes – things like agreement, commitment and involvement. Heckling from the back is the definition of what organisation’s secretly fear will be the actual outcome of their attempts at engagement – conflict. A scary and chaotic thing.
I’m fine with the term engagement. It’s how we create engagement that has become confused. The general consensus seems to be that it’s very important and we need some kind of weighty strategy document to ensure it’s being achieved. I’m no expert, but I think any engagement strategy I wrote would be pretty thin on the ground. That’s either because engagement is so simple it doesn’t need a strategy, or it’s so complicated it’s integral to everything so it doesn’t need a strategy. Possibly both.
If you asked me to engage some people in singing, that would be a simpler proposition. Walk into a room and start singing (preferably something well known and/or patriotic). Some people would join in with me, if I encouraged them. The rest would probably just stare at me open mouthed, or laugh at me. And isn’t that pretty much what happens when we try to engage employees in, shall we call it, “organisation love”. Some of them will join in, while others will look on in horror, or sneer. And aren’t the latter the ones we really need to reach?
So I’m sure it’s been said before but here is my strategy. Three simple words – “tell people stuff”. Important stuff. Give people a sense of bigger purpose – the work equivalent of imparting the meaning of life. If I need to be more explicit, there’s just one more word I need to add – “listen”.
There’s a pretty good chance that some people won’t agree, and isn’t it best to get those feelings out in the open? Someone once said that conflict is a good thing. Of course it’s not. On the other hand dialogue, leading to resolution, certainly is.
So now I’ve got my strategy written, it’s time for the implementation. Getting out there, talking to people, discussing. And of course, sharing the organisational love 🙂