I may be wrong, I often am.

My heart sank with yesterday’s news that the UK Government has launched a taskforce to boost employee engagement. Read that sentence again and tell me it doesn’t reek of despair. However well meaning this taskforce is I shudder when government, any government, starts fiddling with the concept of making work better. There’s a huge industry chuntering out surveys and magic numbers and other guff purporting to be about discretionary effort (that means working harder for no more money). Kevin Ball has written a storming post on engagement surveys which is well worth a read.

This taskforce is to be headed by David MacLeod, an eminent speaker and writer on this subject. I know he’s an eminent writer because I have a stack of ten copies of Engaging for Success (co authored by MacLeod and Nita Clarke and contributed to by me and doubtless hundreds of others) now doubling up as a footstool in my office.  Engagingly supportive. And I know that MacLeod is a highly polished speaker on the subject of employee engagement. I’ve seen him speak several times over the years (including once at a conference I disorganised in April 2010) and he’s good at it. Trouble is it feels stuck. It’s the same story, using the same slides, same jokes, same pleas. I am not yet convinced he has the vigour and rigour to drive this along purposefully. Mind you I’m unsure anyone could drive this in a useful way unless that by useful you mean appeasing government bureaucracy, or driving the whole damn thing off a cliff.

I believe engagement is simple, and that doesn’t mean it is easy.

I think I’ll set up a counter taskforce! I already have an army of HR undead massed at the gates of engagement. War is declared – let battle come down.

engagement ninjas we are ready to fight!

Keen to know what other folks think about this. Are you up for more government sponsored plodding or shall we try a more agile, exciting kick ass way to engage with meaning?

photo c/o carloscappaticci

Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

15 thoughts on “Disengaged”

  1. Doug, I think you hit the nail on the head when you say engagement is simple but not easy. The trouble I have with the normal process of engagement surveys is that they just confirm that we don’t know how our staff feel in the first place. This says more about management & leadership (by numbers?) than the efficacy of the surveys themselves.

    So if there’s going to be a war do we skirmish, attack the battle line of engagement head on or outflank them and focus on the brains behind the lines?

  2. Doug, I must say I cringed when I read the news headline yesterday. I think it is yet another initiative which will make a lot of noise without much substance or make a real difference to the majority of the working people of this land.

    1. Cringe – great word Bina it’s kind of you to pop by and share your cringe. Like I say – I may be wrong, I often am….and I fear you have summed the whole thing up perfectly.

  3. Although it feels heretical ( 🙁 ), as you know Doug, I have to agree with you.

    I was consulted about this particular debacle several years ago when (somehow) David and Nita were asked by their establishment pals to devise the report. They were the same “establishment” figures I had wrestled with over four years simply trying to nudge their internal culture a few steps into this century. I was amazed at the time and my mouth remains open.

    It reminds me of the “after the Lord Mayor’s Show” approach to government reviews like the Scarman and Macpherson Reports in which establishment figures tried to post rationalise race riots (with predictable results).

    Employee Engagement has been used, abused, over hyped and over complicated. I’m amazed by how many people aren’t just asking “why?” but appear to have regressed to asking “what?”. Yet I see underutilised, underconsulted, underinvolved and underengaged people everywhere!!!

    Any “Task Force” worth it’s salt has to be driven by people who not only get it but role model it. There has to be an entrepreneurial energy about the whole thing not a paternalistic, leaden footed establishment feel.

    SO, if you’re up for the revolution, just let me fetch my hoodie, megaphone and petrol bombs and I’ll meet you in the high street.


    Well done for saying what you feel!

    1. Hi Ian – what a fantastic riotous note – thanks! I’m overwhelmed by your four unders. I see them all too often as well. And I think your observation about entrereneurial energy is a good one – we need it and yet it so rarely finds its way into places like this taskforce. Probably too busy out there having fun and getting stuff done eh?

      The more I think about it the more I like the sound of a counter force, ninja style. Let me think a little while longer and I’ll get back to you.

      Cheers – Doug

  4. Hi Doug

    Great post and have balaclava ready to join your kick ass taskforce. My experience of organisations is they really don’t know anything about the people who work for them – there is no insight apart from slightly dodgy demographics lurking on an HR PowerPoint slide and the aforementioned dubious survey results which management obsess over for statistics’ sake. I remember all too clearly the hideous consultancy fees generated by the IT industry over the Millennium Bug that never was. Could those same folk be behind the skewed and irrelevant employee engagement survey industry? I do love a conspiracy theory!

    1. Hi Sarah – thanks ever so much for your visit and your comments. Your membership card and balaclava are in the post. And your conspiracy theory is interesting – I’d wondered where all those millennium buggers had got to!

  5. Well, as you’ve now managed a late pass to the party, Doug, I’m expecting to hear some crash chords and to see you leading the “pogoing” in the engagement mosh pit……Remember to keep it real!!!

    1. I think I managed to create some dis-chord, hope to hear more too! Thanks Ian – I appreciate you coming by. Real is best.

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