In business, the term employee engagement is thrown around with varying degrees of meaning. It has unfortunately joined a number of other important concepts – transparency, collaboration, and inclusion, to name a few of my favorites – and has lost some of its impact.
To revive its core meaning, let’s first define what engagement is not. For instance, true engagement cannot be achieved simply by:
- Completing a survey – However, surveys can help measure engagement as a lag indicator
- Attending a meeting – Talk helps, but it’s the action that counts
- Appointing a committee – Engagement isn’t something that can be delegated
- Hiring a consultant – This can help, provided there is a real willingness to change
Engaging people at work means enabling them to create a personal and emotional connection to their job. And none of the activities mentioned above will create that connection in isolation. So, what will? A comprehensive approach that includes:
- A well defined mission that people can embrace: “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”
- A culture that values employees above products and even above customers: Read more about why employees should come first
- Leadership that seeks to put and end to “command and control” management: Read more about how management is changing
- Making work somewhere people want to be, versus somewhere they’re required to be: Here are 11 perks that some of the best companies offer their employees
- Creating excellent products that solve problems for your customers: Think about Apple with and without Steve Jobs
- A clearly defined process for soliciting team input, enabling everyone to solve problems, and uncovering the best ideas at all levels of the organization: SpeakUp can help drastically improve this process
With only 13% of employees engaged at work worldwide (according to Gallup), at an opportunity cost of around $1/2 a trillion last year in the US alone, employee engagement must be pursued as a strategic priority. The best companies of this century will be defined by how well they engage their teams who will in turn produce the best products and the happiest customers.