In my visits to organisations globally, a lot is spoken of regarding commitment levels of staff to their jobs, teams and their respective organisations. Senior management in these organisations are expecting effort and energy applied appropriately within the business to ensure productivity and results. In many cases, this same management group are even expecting staff to “go the extra mile” and apply additional and discretionary effort to solve business issues and increase turnover, whilst at the same time, reduce cost and, particularly, unnecessary expenditure.
On the other hand, employees are legitimately asking “what’s in it for us”? This is not just a financially-oriented question, as all employees get paid to do their jobs. Many want other aspects of fulfilment – self-development, growth, being part of something that is bigger than themselves, working as a team, adding real value and contributing in decision-making in their respective roles. It would seem that collaboration between senior and junior staff is essential for the combined needs of the above dynamics to be met.
The Corporate Leadership Council defined “employee engagement” as “the extent to which employees commit to something or someone in the organisation, how hard they work as a result of this commitment, and how long they intend to stay with the organisation”. Alinda Nortje, Executive Chairperson of Free To Grow, however, believes that employee engagement is a two-way process that should benefit both the organisation and the employee and therefore chooses to add the following to the Corporate Leadership Council definition: “ … and the extent to which this connection enriches their life and work experiences”.
The role of leaders in generating qualitative engagement with employees cannot be over-emphasised – they need to be equipped with the know-how and skills to be able to enhance commitment. With this in place, the leader’s engagement will then drive the employee engagement levels. Do companies around the world have these leaders?
Bob Nelson said: “You get the best effort from people, not by lighting a fire beneath them, but by building a fire within them”. Employee engagement is not the answer to every organisational issue, but is certainly “mission-critical” for every business that wants staff on board, focused and applying available energy appropriately.