Engagement – that happy state of affairs in which employees are committed to the organisation they work for, understand how their jobs contribute to the aims of the organisation, and are prepared to ‘go the extra mile’ to ensure its success.
A happy state, certainly, but one which is less common than most organisations would like. CIPD surveys in the UK have shown that less than 40 per cent of employees are positively engaged.
So what can we do about it?
People can’t be committed to something they don’t understand, but how many organisations actually take the trouble to explain in detail to employees exactly what their aims are, and how the employee fits into the work of the organisation as a whole? That might happen during induction training (if they receive any), but it’s much less common for long-serving employees to be reminded of how they fit into the bigger picture. It’s more likely that an organisation just assumes that its employees know what its aims are, and how their work contributes to them.
That (possibly apocryphal) man sweeping the floor of a hangar at NASA, explaining to President Kennedy that he (the cleaner) was helping to put a man on the moon, had an admirably clear grasp of the organisation’s aims, and how he fitted into the bigger picture. But how many other people could be so clear about their contribution?
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Most of us would probably laugh at many of the management practices and attitudes of a century ago, but during the First World War workers in British aircraft factories were given presentations and leaflets describing the activities of the aircraft they were building, and their wage packets carried pictures of the aircraft in action. These were relatively small actions by management, and not expensive, but they were concerted efforts “to give the worker some appreciation of the importance of his personal contribution towards winning the war”. They also made a very clear link between the repetitive, seemingly mundane jobs of factory workers and the glamorous achievements of pilots on the Western Front.
If your team make widgets, tell them what happens to those widgets when they leave the factory, and how important they are. If the widgets become components of something larger, let them see the larger item in action. Let them hear from widget users their appreciation of the high quality of your widgets. Replace widgets by any product or service, and the same message holds good.
The means of communication open to managers today are infinitely more sophisticated than those available in 1918, so isn’t it time we managed to engage rather more than that paltry 40 per cent?
For more information about the approach and support tools relating to engagement, productivity and stress reduction on offer from HR in Flow, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 (0) 1280 823 702.