The Look and Feel of Employee Engagement

Over the next few weeks, I'll be unwrapping posts from the archivies and mixing the old with the new.  Enjoy this post from the past.

Employee engagement is top of mind for all organizations right now.

 Photo credit: iStockphoto

Photo credit: iStockphoto

I was preparing for my role on an employee engagement panel and my worlds of practicing HR professional, organizational HR leader and working supervisor collided in a kaleidoscope of thought. Usually my thoughts flow, but they were not flowing at that moment.

With all of the coined words, catch phrases, lists, commandments, principles out there on employee engagement, I fell into the trap of trying to come up my own original <and maybe even a bit disruptive> take on it all.

I had nothing. I was working too hard to sound smart - to be academic - and that's where it all went wrong for me.

Employee engagement is not academic. Yes, Gallup has a ton of research on employee engagement complete with proven interventions and SHRM produces their annual Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement report (spotlighted here) but your efforts will fail if you don't move beyond the data.

Employee engagement is about people. It's about employees choosing to work together to make a product, service or experience better.

There is a look to employee engagement that you can't miss.

From my experiences, employee engagement looks like the supply sergeant coming in on Christmas Day to run through the supply list "one more time" to be sure the deploying soldiers had everything they needed (and more) or the health care team that shifts their schedules over lunch to see a patient who thought his appointment was this week - not next.

There is a feel to employee engagement that you can't miss.

From my experiences, employee engagement feels like urgency. It feels like enthusiasm and being unstoppable. Barriers don't exist, possibility abounds and ideas flow. Produce now, ask questions later. You can't tell an engaged group what the answer to the question is because they come up with questions you haven't thought and the answers are yet to be discovered.

First line supervisors can enhance - or destroy - your efforts.

Yes, yes they can. Training and supporting your first line supervisors is key to any employee engagement effort. They can't deliver if they don't understand and they cannot do it on their own.

Employee engagements is more than 3 bullets and while there are things that work and things that don't, there is not one right way to do employee engagement in any particular organization, department or team.

It starts with a conversation. Are you listening to what your employees are saying?