Engagement Isn’t Optional

In my work helping leaders build talent and leadership development systems I’ve noticed something:

Employee Interest is Falling

Years ago we practiced corporate paternalism. You join the company, we tell you what to do, you won’t have to think much about career and one day you’ll retire with a watch.

Good times.

Somewhere around 1980 globalization began in earnest as labor and production moved across continents followed by the creatives a decade later and ultimately by the flow of information. The “company” became virtual and employees Legos to be placed and pulled as needed.

The new mantra?

You’ve Got to Manage Your Own Career (now…)

People got it.

Millennials and Gen Y have a much more rational view – imo – of the work equation than I did. Its a value exchange with one side providing pay and benefits and the other service. No false loyalty, admiration, implication or expectation.

Even Boomers like me eventually figured it out.

And there’s the rub.

We’ve done such a good job of insisting employers aren’t responsible for employees’ careers they’ve actually believed us and taken things into their own hands. When the value exchange – service for reward – isn’t in balance people vote with their feet and leave.

Essence of Engagement

Engagement isn’t an option – the way you interact with people is your engagement mode. Your culture is your engagement.

Some argue engagement isn’t real or necessary, that people are already incentivized to do their work.

Engagement is just another bogus HR solution looking for a problem.

If you believe that you can stop reading.

But if you’ve noticed your turnover increasing, and measured the resultant cost of hiring much less the impact to production, quality, customer service, innovation and sales due to excessive churning of talent you may want to reconsider.

There’s a positive correlation between employee retention and customer sat.

Engagement is the underlying value set that affects the way you attract and manage people. Are you looking for Legos or people?

A friend of mine likes to ask, are you into command & control or ask & invite? Her point is that this simple perspective influences the nature of your engagement. Try and ‘compel’ people and over the long term not only will they vote with their feet but you’ll end up tired and cranky.

But think of engagement as invitation and its no longer murky and clouded in HR dust. You can ask questions and still be the leader. You can invite people to talk. Share your concerns, plans, views, constraints. Engaging doesn’t have to be confusing and frankly it shouldn’t be a bolt-on program.

Engagement is keeping your people in the game by inviting them in.

Most people are going to accept that invitation.


2 thoughts on “Engagement Isn’t Optional

  1. This is a great post Christopher. I’ve noticed the trend towards writing off engagement lately too, and I find it confusing. I’m not sure if it’s a lack of understanding, or the “everything popular is wrong” crowd trying to be controversial to get attention. The results are in on engagement – denying the importance of engagement is the denying climate change of HR.

  2. Pingback: 5 Top Blogs of the Week HR, Recruiting, Social Media Policies, Human Resources, HR Technology Blogging4Jobs

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