What do you think of this comment from someone I met recently?
'This engagement stuff is a distraction. We just need to get on with doing our jobs'.
To understand the value of something it's sometimes useful to stop and look at the alternative. Statistics tell us that a large portion of the workforce is not engaged. So, if people are not engaged, what are they? And, does that matter?
Being disengaged shows up in different ways
Let me introduce you to Bob and Brian.
Bob is bored. Many of the tasks he has to do are mundane. He doesn't find his work stimulating or meaningful. His energy is low, he is not overly committed to achieving the organisations' goals and has trouble staying focused on his tasks. Work for Bob is not a positive or fulfilling experience. Although he generally does what is required, he gets by with the minimum.
Brian on the other hand is on the way to burnout. He has been working on a challenging project. Initially he was excited, however on-going changes to requirements and to team members have resulted in his workload steadily increasing (along with his levels of frustration). Now he is not so excited about the project and sees it simply as a job. He is struggling to keep up with things and is beginning to make mistakes and to doubt his abilities. He has become cynical and lethargic.
Neither Bob nor Brian are engaged employees. Work is not much fun for Bob or Brian and their disengagement is a very real cost to their organisation. It's likely that Brian will be moving on soon. His employer will lose his expertise and face the costs of finding someone to replace him.
Then there are the others...
Pete has a surprising number of injuries at work because he doesn't care about the health and safety policy. Mary has maxed out her sick leave and is still taking regular sickies. Alex is constantly getting feedback that people find him uncooperative and abusive.
We all know that in reality frustrating projects and mundane tasks are unavoidable in most workplaces. It doesn't mean that our people can't be fully engaged.
Sharon is an engaged employee.
She has a support role on a project and often takes care of mundane tasks for her manager. She brings a real energy to her tasks and is always looking for ways to work more efficiently. Despite the tight deadlines and pressures, she knows her efforts are worthwhile. She can see that the completed project will make a real difference to her organisation. She typically arrives at work keen to get on with the project. She has no plans to leave.
Can we foster more Sharons?
It takes a coordinated approach, throughout an organisation. You may be surprised how little it costs to introduce practices that really do foster engagement.