Whenever I think Employee Engagement (EE) has already become another buzz-phrase in the business world, someone asks me what it is. I say engagement describes the degree to which people care about the work they do. Engaged people care, dis-engaged people don’t. That simple.
It’s no surprise that businesses are increasingly turning to EE because management has always sought ways to have employees work better, smarter, faster. And the data is in that engaged employees are good for business.
But it’s because that’s their real objective is why many will fail.
Yes, productivity, service, revenue, profit, employee retention are all positively impacted when employees become more engaged but those aren’t the reasons to focus on EE.
It’s not just about increasing productivity and profits.
It’s about human beings NOT human resources
Clearly profit objectives shouldn’t disappear from the business horizon anytime soon, but using human beings primarily as work units to achieve profit is a big part of why people resist investing their hearts and minds at work.
They feel like tools that nobody cares about … not really. They feel that all the programs and incentives are just manipulations to get them to produce more … and more … and more.
My quota has gone up again? Really?
The minute they stop producing they’re kicked out the door.
It’s about respect for the human spirit
There’s another way to look at EE that has nothing to do with typical profit and business objectives.
It’s about seeing work as the means to free the human spirit. “The pursuit of happiness” isn’t separate from what you do at work. It’s not about working so you can be happy and fulfilled after 5.
We have a choice about what work means to us:
Not work to survive
Most view work as something we all must do so that we can enjoy the rest of our lives.
Choosing survival has us live in the margins of our lives—after 5, weekends, vacations and retirement when we can be ourselves and do what we want.
Choosing survival seems a no-brainer as it’s obviously preferably to the only other choice.
But there is a new choice that is beginning to creep into mass consciousness—We can
Work to FLOuRiSH
Work can for the first time—or once again—be the primary vehicle to live a meaningful life where work is about doing something remarkable, solving huge problems, making the world a better place, helping people, or as Steve Jobs famously quipped “putting a dent in the Universe.”
What that means to you, you alone can answer, but if you do ask yourself “What does it mean to live a meaningful life?,” I think you won’t be able to avoid work, and the focus on EE comes from business leaders noticing the difference in work output from people who have connected their every day work to something that is important and meaningful to them.
Their work counts for something which means they
- think of better ways to do it,
- increase their capacities to get their jobs done,
- seek to do it with people who share their commitments.
The business or corporate benefit to this is higher profits, greater innovation and stronger brands but it comes almost indirectly, out of a sincere and sustained drive to nurture the human spirit; from business leaders who really care about their business mission and the people they hire to achieve it.