Employee engagement is ever more vital for modern businesses. As social media and big data make it easier for us to hunt out potential employees and try to lure them to work for us, so we face the growing risk of having our own best talent lured away.
Employee engagement remains largely about getting the most from your staff, but it is also becoming ever more important for hanging on to the staff you have. So how can you get the most out of engagement and avoid its most common pitfalls?
A long Term Investment
Shifting from thinking about employee engagement to employee investment might sound like a change of labels rather than substance, but it does reflect a revival in thinking about the subject, and one that matters.
When employee engagement was originally discussed it shifted the focus to the employee’s experience and how the business affected them. This is a vital part of creating engagement, making employees central to their own workplace experience, focusing on seeing the work from their point of view.
But as time has passed this focus has become watered down. More companies looking at engagement means more snake oil salesmen looking to provide cheap, easy wins for the sake of the business and its managers, not its employees.
Thinking about employee engagement as investment in that employee and their future in the company helps to shift the focus back onto people and what will be good for them. Without that shift there is no hope of creating genuine engagement.
A Person In A Place
Any way of thinking has its risks, even when it is well intentioned. By focusing on employees’ engagement with their work, by concerning ourselves their thoughts and feelings, we sometimes forget that they are also physical bodies working within the office environment.
A change in working space at The Bridgespan Group shows how powerful changes in the working environment can be. Shifting to an open plan office helped to increase interactions between colleagues and the sort of innovative thinking that arises from bouncing ideas of other people.
Your physical environment makes a huge difference to the engagement of your workforce. An environment that allows casual social chatter and makes human interactions part of the working process creates a more human workplace, one that’s happier and friendlier to work in, one with which people can engage. And opening things up is only one of the ways you can use the environment to improve engagement.
So don’t forget to think about the workspace when thinking about engagement.
Leaving Some Space
Matthew E. May has written about the value of not overcrowding the details in a product, of leaving a blank space into which customers can read something of themselves. But this applies to employee engagement, not just customer engagement.
In trying to follow all the best practices, engagement schemes risk becoming weighed down with all the ideas and innovations management and HR can come up with. That leaves little space for the personality of the employees you are engaging with. It means bombarding them with a constant stream of other people’s concerns.
So make space in your engagement plan for employees to sit back and process what you’ve given them. For them to appreciate the rewards they’ve received and look forward to those to come. For them to take a breather from the exciting projects and internalize just how much they valued that work. In short, a space for them to engage themselves with your business.
The more we work at engagement the more pitfalls show up. But that also means that we’re getting better at spotting and countering them, leading to happier, more valued employees.