By Roy Saunderson
Is it just me or has work been changing over the last few years?
My first job was in banking as a customer service representative—as a clerk in England and then as a teller in Canada. The day-to-day activities followed fixed schedules of start and finish, had detailed job responsibilities that could be physically demanding depending on the customers you interfaced with, and boasted fairly tight supervision and control of one’s work. The job was individually delivered and never really changed. It was a stable job, and it was a tough uphill hierarchy if you ever wanted to advance within the organization. You left at the end of the day and forgot work until you came back the next morning. Was I just satisfied or was I engaged?
Today, as a strategic recognition consultant, work is never dull, with continuous change being the name of the game. Work can start and end at different times on different days in different parts of the world. The diversity of clients—both industry and country—amazes and thrills me. There is a far greater degree of teamwork and collaboration as I work on innovative projects. And as for a job description—it doesn’t exist anymore. I can’t keep up with the new and creative challenges that cause me to constantly learn and grow and do things I have never done before. Organizations are much flatter in hierarchy, and work is far from stable. I would say work today is far more mentally and emotionally demanding. I can leave work physically but not really leave my job behind. I think about an idea or need during the evening hours at home or even before I start work the next day. I think I am more than satisfied with my job.
I really believe I am engaged.
As you look at your own career path over the last few years, have you had a similar experience of seeing how work has changed?
Not only has work changed, but the topic of employee engagement also has evolved.
So What Is Engagement?
Every major consultancy firm will measure, report, and consult on how to improve your engagement measures. Whether it is a 12-point measure from Gallup; Say Stay Strive assessment from Hewitt; or Mercer’s 100-plus questions across 12 performance and competency areas, each firm has its own proprietary definition of employee engagement.
It’s a fuzzily defined, multifaceted factor that grabs the attention of companies because of the implication that engagement drives performance and results. For me, employee engagement is simply how much you enjoy your work and the connected willingness you have to emotionally commit to doing whatever it takes to get the job done.
Hire Engaged People
The first task in getting engaged employees is hiring engaged people in the first place. Research by Dr. Wilmar Schaufeli from Utrecht University found that engaged workers draw upon many personal resources or qualities. There is a greater tendency for them to be:
The interesting thing is they are also engaged people even outside of work. Engaged employees are engaged people. Knowing these aspects for potential job candidates may guide you on what to look for and in refining the interview questions.
Liking Your Work
Engaged employees are genuinely more happy and excited about their roles and the work they do than those who are disengaged. Schaufeli and his associates found engaged employees demonstrate more intrinsic motivation and found their work to be perceived as fun. David and Wendy Ulrich identify in their book, “The Why of Work,” that “the why refers to the human search for meaning that finds its way into our offices and factories, a search that motivates, inspires, and defines us.”
What can you do about this? Find out what employees are passionate about and what gets them genuinely excited about work. Then build more opportunities into their job or give them assignments and invite them to serve on committees where employees can experience these innate motivating qualities. The Ulrichs share, “When we deliberately structure our work and our interactions to build on our signature strengths, we feel like we have enough and to spare of what it takes to do the job at hand.” That’s engagement!
Keeping Employees Engaged
If, as Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, found that people literally get a boost in personal happiness when they use their strengths regularly and in new and creative ways, then surely our job as leaders is to help employees discover and utilize their strengths.
Through informal observation and regular one-on-one meetings, leaders can learn much about their employees’ innate and acquired abilities, as well as utilizing available formal assessments to identify their strengths.
Leaders also must remember that when walking into an office, plant, or building, anyone can pick up on the energy, or lack thereof, and the work environment that prevails. We need to constantly work on building a positive workplace culture by consistently communicating, living, and holding people accountable for the organizational values. We need to facilitate, model, and reinforce working on the positive relationships between everyone—at all levels, and assisting the emotional atmosphere and patterns that make for an engaging workplace.
Employee engagement is not just about an annual or just-in-time survey score. More than anything else, employee engagement is simply living and working to make everyone happy.
Roy Saunderson is author of “GIVING the Real Recognition Way” and president of the Recognition Management Institute, a consulting and training firm specializing in helping companies “get recognition right.” Its focus is on showing leaders how to give real recognition to create positive relationships, better workplaces, and real results. For more information, contact RoySaunderson@Rideau.com or visit http://www.RealRecognition.com.