What is Engagement all About?

I was recently interviewed by HR matters magazine over in Malaysia, so too was renowned engagement expert David Zinger. The interviews were published as a double act, I’m very humbled, and proud of this. David and I have a lot in common and enough difference to make for some interesting…differences! The good people @ HR matters set the scene:

“Engagement in the workplace is something business owners and managers strive for. Engaged employees are more likely to feel motivated and be bound by close friendships at the workplace and exhibit a higher level of passion for what they do. Employers the world over embrace the virtues of a fully engaged workforce and employ various techniques to put this into action. But really, what is engagement all about?”

HRM : What do you believe engagement is all about?

David Zinger : Engagement is an encompassing term referring to our connection with something. We can have employee engagement, social media engagement, customer engagement, student engagement, etc. Today we are talking about employee engagement which refers to how connected the employee is to their work, their organization, and results. Employee engagement started to be used as a term in the early 1990’s and has grown in use ever since.

At the heart of engagement is a new way of working, managing, and leading. I think engagement will fill the void left by the ineffectiveness and anaemia of trying to use command and control to get work done in this new decade. We need to keep people connected to their work and each other in meaningful ways that produce benefits for all.

Doug Shaw : For me engagement is about co-creating and then delivering great service. It is about employees, customers and community. First and foremost in order to engage we need to listen, sincerely and actively. And be able to show a genuine interest in what we are being told. Listening to different groups of people, in particular the front line of an organisation, and its customers, is a great way to find out what’s working well and what isn’t. The act of listening and being able to clearly communicate what you have heard is a great way to start the engagement process. People like to be listened to and like to know they’ve been heard.

Second, it’s about co-creation. Bringing different groups of people together to discuss what is working and what is not, and how we can work together to make things better, using as much of their language as possible. It’s vital to include the people who deliver service for your organisation, and bold organisations ask the customer to get involved in the process too.

Third, never forget that honesty sells. It’s so important to create an environment where people can be straight with one another. To achieve this is simple, but not always easy. Honesty begins with you. I’ve seen too many great engagement opportunities fail because leaders thought people would do what they say, not what they see. However if you gain a reputation for doing what you say you will and for being straight (and that doesn’t mean insensitive) with people then you can help deliver fantastic results.

Update. September 2015: Sadly, since I wrote this blog post in 2010, the full article which I linked to from here seems to have disappeared into the ether so I’ll just leave you with a question. What is engagement all about for you?

Author: Doug Shaw

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

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