Add meaning to engage?

Some say it is about creating a vision that everyone feels part of. It is about understanding what motivates them, say others. Hmm…says the practical cynic, it is only about making sure the way people behave supports your organizational revenue goals, velvet-gloved as values.

Employee Engagement. Everyone hears the buzz, but is it the honey they taste or the sting they feel? Statistics further spice up discussions. Only 14 to 30 percent of employees are engaged at work, screams a survey – and we have dozens of extrapolations of how much more productive organizations can be if engagement went up by even 5 percentage points.

Fad or truth, fluff or real, it begs attention. Not the jargon-coated icing but the plain vanilla.

How do we spark the “wanting-a-life-that-counts” enthusiasm in the employees who spend roughly 1/3 of the hours they are alive at work? For, at the core, all of us want to have an impact on people and situations that touch our lives.

The responsibility starts at the top, without a doubt. The leadership team must be engaged themselves; they must be role models for this behavior with their direct reports—who then do the same for their teams. For supervisors, managers and leaders, this must light a fire under their chairs to make work more meaningful for those they work with.

The stark truth in today’s business scene – and this is to be taken with no inciting emotion – is that loyalty cannot be rewarded the way it was in the past. That career progress is a spiral and not a ladder. The good news is that the ‘more-with-less’ credo is understood and agreed on both sides of the table.

The paycheck, the bonuses and other rewards…these are driven by revenue and budgets, as they should be. Let us go beyond tying the incompatible knot between genuine meaning at work and monetary rewards.   How can organizational leadership add motivation based on the employees’ roles themselves?

For starters, can leaders creatively design a role-based model that explains employee engagement starting with the end goal in mind? Most organizations have a model that splits an employee’s role into core (what is in the job description) and non-core but value added competencies. Can each leader understand his business well enough to make the roles of the ‘innovator’, ‘the career developer’ and ‘the organizational team member’ roles more exciting for his members? Visibility, respect, acknowledgment and recognition for skills beyond the core job competencies are powerful motivators that tap into the longing to make contributions beyond oneself. They are happier and more excited when they are successful in both roles.

Within the everyday status quo, leaders can opt for a fair number of possibilities – deliberate responsibility rotation, opening channels of learning, increasing opportunities for direct interaction with customers and senior leadership, open decision-making, wise deployment of individual, cluster and mass communication, artful and timely positive and corrective feedback…

For the organization too, this translates into tangible benefits.

Employees, when part of a team that develops company-specific knowledge, become assets who understand, with pride and depth, the culture and objectives of the organization. They engage in behaviors that support the organization instead of their own jobs and these behaviors bring high value to productivity.

But like I said, it has to start above. Leaders need to walk the talk – confused, distracted and dejected leaders kill employee engagement. They need to, with clarity and conviction, articulate how each role helps support the business goals and strategy. They must provide meaning, support and pride for the value-added roles.

This may then set a better context and direction for employee engagement and lend better value for the time, effort and money invested in initiatives in this area.


About Janaki

As an individual, I love life, friends, books, music, movies, travel, meeting people. I believe that one is only as old as one feels, and that one can find at least one redeeming feature even in the person one dislikes intensely. As a professional, I have, after a 25+ year corporate stint in people management, taken a shot to placing an independent signature in my passion of guiding people and potential to performance and organization success View all posts by Janaki

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