When I was at AIB I spent a lot of time talking to our people leaders about how employee engagement and internal communications was a very significant part of their roles.
I’d often say to them, “If I had a fiver for every time I heard “have you done your engagement yet?”, I’d be on a Caribbean beach right now.’
And it’s true. In the past few years the profile of employee engagement as a way to motivate your employees has increased significantly. Is it important? Yes, hundreds of studies and papers point to the fact that a more engaged workforce is a more productive workforce.
However, in some organisations, as the concept has gathered pace, it's resulted in leaders saying things like “Have you done your engagement yet?”, as if 'engagement' is something that one does over and above one's day job.
I think in many ways, when people leaders say that, they’re talking about completing the annual survey, creating an action plan on the back of the results or putting the actions in that plan into practice - all of which is good stuff. In fact, when we analyzed the data in AIB we found that teams who agreed actions and changed things and made changes on the back of their engagement survey scores were significantly more engaged overall than those who didn’t.
Interestingly,it was the journey that was engaging them, not just the destination. But that was a journey of doing a specific thing to drive a specific outcome It was very transactional.
If you want to drive truly transformational engagement in teams across your organisation, you need your leaders to be on board.
If you look at Gallup’s Q12 engagement survey (and I've paraphrased here rather than listing the whole lot out) you can see what I mean. For Gallup, the core of strong engagement isn't about doing engagement, it’s about strong leadership:
Do you know what is expected of you at work and do you have what you need to do your job?
Are you working in an environment where you get to do your best and have you been recognized for doing it?
Does your manager care about you, listen to your opinions and encourage your our development?
Do you understand the part you play in achieving the company’s goals, are you getting opportunities to learn and progress.
So, for me, there’s no need to ‘do’ engagement. If you’re 'being' a good leader, one who cares about the growth and welfare of your people, then your very actions will create a more engaged team.