Some thoughts about employee engagement

Photo by Audin

I was reading Interaction Associates’ Fully Engaged e-book yesterday. In the e-book they describe the top five drivers of employee engagement, as cited in the 2008 Global Workforce Study by Towers Perrin.

1. Senior management is sincerely interested in my well-being.

2. My skills or capabilities improved the last year.

3. I respect my organization’s reputation for social responsibility.

4. I have input into decision making in my department.

5. My organization quickly resolves customer concerns.

Although I haven’t read the entire study and my thoughts are based on my gut feeling only, I decided to jot down a few comments:

1. Driver number one is an interesting one. I must admit that in the past I have participated in a number of discussions about “the people upstairs” and their misalignment with the “little employee down here”. I also truly believe that senior management should be actively involved and interested in people management in the organization. I must, however, raise a question – is the problem the interest portrayed by senior management itself or the way it is communicated? I think the way your direct manager acts as a transmitter between the employees and senior management (and the communication should flow both ways) will be an important predictor of the success a company will have regarding this driver.

2. Driver number two is a bigger mystery to me. How exactly employees expect to improve their skills or capabilities? If it by improving their weaknesses, then it might prove to be something to be worried about. If it is by finding ways to use their strength and their weaknesses, then that is an important demand. We know from other research that the level of employees’ engagement is higher when mangers focus on employees’ strengths, but the question remains whether that is what employees’ expect?

3. Driver number four is something I believe many managers are a little scared of. “I have the responsibility, shouldn’t I have the decision making power as well?”  they think to themselves. However, we need to understand that there is a difference between taking an input for the decision and making the decision itself. Most people can accept a decision with a different outcome then what they were hoping for as long as they know they had a say and the process was fair. As David Silverman nicely put it:

More to the point, I should not feel comfortable sitting in the CEOs chair, putting my feet on his desk, and thumbing through his or her Rolodex — and I don’t want to. I want strong leadership making the tough decisions. Do I want input? Of course, but without a leader making the call, and taking the responsibility to insist all the other managers and employees come into line, nothing would get done at my, or any other, company

4. Finally, these drivers (as well as the comments above) prove to me once again that the direct manager of an employee has a tremendous effect on his success, motivation and level of engagement.


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