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

Stakeholder Engagement – In Detail

Just for you – we’ve written an in depth study of stakeholder engagement. Well as in depth as anyone needs it to be. So forget your weighty tomes and worthy manuals, this is it folks.

1 – Be aware of who your stakeholders are

2 – Inform stakeholders about what’s going on

3 – Ask stakeholders their opinion

4 – Is that it? Seems to be…that’s where most folks leave it eh? OK – it’s a wrap, lights out, we’re going home. Oh yeah….the bit most folks forget…we nearly forgot.

5 – Act on what your stakeholders tell you. At least sometimes. Go on, it’s good for you, and your stakeholders will love you for it.

6 – Go back to step 1

Photo c/o brewbooks

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?