My name is Doug Shaw. I am a human resources consultant, speaker and artist. And as you’ll see from this post, I am British.
I specialise in organisational collaboration, community development and exploring creativity. Connecting different groups of people is a vital part of my work, and I use a unique blend of conversational techniques, social technology and artistic methods to help people make work better. People typically ask for my help when they want to achieve something collaborative and creative, and when they want to do this with each other, rather than to each other.
IS EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT A REAL THING?
A 2013 survey found that only 1 in 5 people have even heard of the term employee engagement. As a ‘thing’, I’m not convinced it matters. What matters is how the experience makes people feel.
Employee engagement seems like a fad because that’s what it is for many people. It is often experienced literally as a tick box exercise. Here’s a survey, fill it in, we don’t want to know who you are (which to me says we are not really interested in involving you personally with improving the business), we will publish a fancy report and then — because we’re too busy/lazy/bitter and twisted — nothing more will happen until the next survey when you get to tell us ‘nothing ever changes around here’. Frequently, we end up with employee engagement feeling like little more than ‘how can we, the business, get/squeeze/extract more out of our people’.
However, if employee engagement were to be positioned as a stepping stone on the journey away from an industrialised model of work, towards something more co-created, more meaningful, more enjoyable, then I think the return on investment would need to be articulated as something mutually beneficial. How could we do that?
The principles behind the engagement process need to be responsive and open: Ask, listen, respond in a timely fashion. Demonstrate pace. Lead by example. Do what you say you will. Anonymity should only ever be optional. I believe the principles of responsiveness and openness will be reciprocated and will come to represent the ROI of taking engagement (i.e., your people) seriously.
TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR ENGAGEMENT
There are only three things you can influence: How you think, how you feel and how you behave. Choose your attitude; make stuff happen.
Most work is coercive, meaning that it is done to you. This habit becomes hugely disempowering and we begin to respond to this experience by demonstrating things such as learned helplessness and learned irresponsibility. Bad work sucks at your soul, which is why we need soulful HR people like you to help others engage.
TALENT ADVISORS CAN FIX ENGAGEMENT ISSUES
OK, here’s my no brainer. Notice people. Say hi to someone, spot someone doing a good job and let them know you appreciate their efforts — right there, right then. Stuff like that. Small repeatable actions make big differences.
I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that talent advisors should encourage everyone to take 15 minutes out of every day to meditate. I don’t mean going around hugging trees and wearing kaftans, but instead, try using something like Headspace to learn about and appreciate the importance of being present and taking time out for yourself.
In truth, what people do with that 15 minutes is none of our business, but I think giving them time to pause and reflect shows that we care. I’ve been meditating every day for over 130 days straight and I’m just beginning to feel a benefit from it. Research is indicating that meditation is good for our psychological and physiological well-being, and helps us think better, too.
IGNORE ENGAGEMENT ISSUES AT YOUR PERIL
One final piece of advice? Ignore employee disengagement at your peril. Higher stress levels and more burnout are just the beginning. Remember how we’re in a war for talent? Your best people will leave, because they can, and this will just put more pressure on the remaining, increasingly disengaged workforce.
Throughout the month of June, our talent advisors will be dishing out their best advice on effectively managing your talent and helping them thrive. Learn why even talent management pros need fans, and take a look at how these companies are effectively managing talent.
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