sparklerWell, that’s not strictly true, but alongside the less than startling revelation that “engaged” employees are healthier, happier, more fulfilled and more productive, comes a raft of shocking research results from the Government Taskforce, Engage for Success, that highlight how much work needs to be done to change current ways of working in the UK .

64% of people say they have more to offer in skills and talent than they are currently being asked to demonstrate at work. How about that for untapped potential?!

So, the current buzz-phrase is “employee engagement”.  Nothing new here, indeed The Colour Works has been banging this drum for a long time, but the establishment of an official Engagement Taskforce, led by employment experts David MacLeod and Nita Clarke (and I’m proud to say The Colour Works is in the Taskforce Guru Group), to investigate what the phrase means in practical terms, how the UK performs in this area and what employers and employees can do to drive for a culture change in UK leadership and management, has shone a light on some useful (albeit embarrassing) information:

What a ridiculous and sad state of affairs.  Put in basic terms, employers’ inability to engage their own staff is a lose-lose-lose situation – for the individuals concerned, for the organisations that employ them and ultimately for the UK economy as a whole.

Meanwhile, employers who’ve “got it right” (or are at least doing better than the rest) are reaping the rewards.

The evidence shows that, in comparison with organisations in the bottom quartile, those with top quartile “engagement” scores:

So what is it, what is it not, and what can we all do to do it better?

“Employee engagement” is a workplace approach designed to ensure that employees are committed to their organisation’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organisational success, and are able at the same time to enhance their own sense of well-being.

In particular, engagement is two way: organisations must work to engage the employee, who in turn has a choice about a) the level of challenge to the employer to implement strategies for improved engagement and b) the level of engagement to offer the employer. Each reinforces the other.

An engaged employee experiences a blend of job satisfaction, organisational commitment, job involvement and feelings of empowerment, fulfillment and being valued for who they are. It is a concept that is greater than the sum of its parts.

“Engage for Success” describes itself as a movement committed to the idea that there is a better way to work, a better way to enable personal growth, organisational growth and ultimately growth for Britain by releasing more of the capability and potential of people at work. And you can’t argue with that, can you!

The Taskforce has identified 4 Key Enablers, each of which we think deserves a Colour Works explanation as, if this is to gain any traction as a movement, it must be differentiated from all past management fads and efforts by employers to extract discretionary effort by manipulating employees’ commitment and emotions. After all, employees see through such attempts very quickly and they lead instead to the exact opposite of the desired goal – cynicism, disillusionment and disengagement.

The Key Enablers are:

  1. Strategic Narrative

  2. Engaging Managers

  3. Employee Voice

  4. Integrity

Now, these are HUGE topics that the Taskforce has done well to break down into just 4 main areas, but each one needs looking at in greater depth, so we’re going to tackle each one in turn and, so as not to overload you, deal with one per newsletter.

So, here we go with the first Key Enabler, considering what it means in practical terms, what it doesn’t and what both the employer and the employee can do to make it happen.

KEY ENABLER 1: STRATEGIC NARRATIVE

The idea here is that by providing a story line of the organisation’s past, present and future, communicated clearly, consistently and constantly, an employee can identify their role in helping to bring about an exciting vision of the future.

Points to note here:

1)    This is not just an excuse for the marketing department to put together some beautiful words and pictures in posters and brochures designed to inspire new employees just like that.  They can play their part in the HOW the narrative is conveyed to keep it fresh, but the critical words here are “clearly, consistently and constantly”, i.e. keep actively telling the story and make it obvious how each person’s daily tasks fit into the bigger picture.

2)    People are motivated by and can connect with WHY you do something more than WHAT you do.  As Simon Sinek says in his fantastic TED talk “How great leaders inspire action”, “Martin Luther King did not give a ‘I have a plan’ speech”. [ted id=848]

3)    So, the strategic narrative is not just a list of dry dates and achievements written down somewhere.  It has to be spoken, live and engaging in its own right.  It has to include some “purpose” that I, as an employee, can connect with and feel proud to be a part of, giving meaning to what I do.  Again, nothing new here – most of us will have heard about the man sweeping the corridors at the NASA plant at Cape Canaveral back in the 70s, when asked what he was doing, replied “I’m helping to put a man on the moon”.  Is your organisation’s strategic narrative clear to you and inspiring you to contribute to its future?

4)    If you’re an employee and are not receiving this Strategic Narrative from your leaders, check the Engage for Success websitewww.engageforsuccess.org – to arm yourself with evidence and arguments and ASK FOR IT!

At The Colour Works, we too are committed to to the idea that there is a better way to work, a better way to enable personal growth, organisational growth and ultimately growth for Britain by releasing more of the capability and potential of people at work.

Contact us if you are keen to do the same with your organisation.

KEY ENABLER 2: ENGAGING MANAGERS

Well, from The Colour Works’ perspective, this is such a key element of engagement and where, in most instances, it all goes wrong!  Perhaps the biggest contributor to disengagement is being treated poorly by your immediate manager, followed closely by witnessing their poor management of others, and it’s rare to come across someone who doesn’t have a story to tell.

So, points to note here:

1)    This has to start right at the top of an organisation with leaders behaving in a way that they’d like to see mirrored throughout the organisation and especially at management level.  How can leaders hope to create an engaged workforce without starting at home, with themselves?  And of course, it’s all based on emotional intelligence, the cornerstone of which is self-awareness and an ability to recognise and value differences.  Without this level of understanding and mutual respect, an engagement strategy is going nowhere.

2)    The foundation of being able to “coach and stretch” people is understanding who they are, how they want to grow and where they can therefore add value to the organisation and feel more fulfilled themselves.  If you manage others, do you know this about each of them?

3)    Coaching is a skill – let The Colour Works work with you to develop coaching skills in your leaders and managers.

4)    If people are going to be encouraged to fulfil their potential, they must be given the space to grow into and to make the odd mistake.  Are you creating that space (this often means leaders and managers “letting go” – a tough but necessary ask)?  Are you rewarding innovation and challenge to the status quo?

5)     If you’re an employee and don’t see evidence from your employer on any of the above, ASK FOR IT!

KEY ENABLER 3: EMPLOYEE VOICE

Again, it’s not difficult to see the benefits of this. There is employee voice throughout the organisation, for reinforcing and challenging views, between functions and externally, employees are seen as central to the solution.

KEY ENABLER 4: INTEGRITY

There is organisational integrity – the values on the wall are reflected in day to day behaviours. There is no ‘say–do’ gap.

ENGAGE OR DIE! Part 2 - The Role of the Manager
Read up on emotional intelligence, stress, letting go , patience, happiness at work, handling the awkward meeting and your difficult person.

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