By: Kevin Eikenberry
For several years, engagement has been a big topic among consultants and the business press. Organizations and leaders want to have more engaged team members, and so all manner of programs, tools, apps, processes, and surveys have been created to support and encourage employee engagement.
And the focus has only increased in the last few months as millions of more people have been working from home. The slippery issue of engagement seems to be even more, well, slippery.
Regardless of where people work there are two underlying starting point questions which must be acknowledged and answered first:
- What is engagement?
- Who owns engagement?
What is Engagement?
Too many efforts to improve engagement assume the goodness of the idea and further assume that because it is a good thing, that everyone knows what is being strived for. I agree that engagement is good – and that it is worth pursuing – but we must know where we are headed before we begin. Here is a short section from our upcoming book the Long-Distance Teammate: Stay Engaged and Connected Anywhere that addresses this point:
Engagement is more than employee satisfaction. You can be satisfied, and your job’s fine. Nothing’s wrong, but it doesn’t mean that you’re engaged. Engaged is a level of caring beyond just “It’s okay.” How much discretionary effort are you putting in? How much of your heart, soul, and effort are you putting into your work? Are you satisfied with just the bare minimum, or are you doing your best most of the time?
Engagement then is about caring, believing, and being motivated by the work, your co-workers and the importance and purpose of the work’s output. If you doubt the value of this, consider two people: one who is all those things and another for whom those things wouldn’t be true. Who do you want on your team (to lead or work with)?
Who Owns Engagement?
Here is another brief snippet from our upcoming book:
Contrary to popular opinion, we believe your engagement largely belongs to you. How much you care, how hard you try, how much effort you put into your work, is in your control—all of these are your choices. Can those around you (including your boss) make those choices easier or harder? Sure—but the choices are still yours.
If engagement is about caring, believing, motivation and meaning, who has control of those things?
You do – the individual (perhaps remote) worker.
Engagement doesn’t belong to your boss, the HR Department, or the Engagement Project Team – it belongs to you.
The Organizational and Leadership Role
This doesn’t mean leadership should be given a pass or organizations shouldn’t think about creating greater engagement. There are many things that can support and encourage the decisions that individuals make regarding their level of engagement. These ideas should be studied and considered – but only in the right context and with the proper goal. Individual leaders should look for ways to support engagement, not be looking for some perfect solution to “get people to be engaged.”
I believe that everyone (you, the rest of your team, your leadership, and the organization as a whole) wins as individual team member engagement grows. I hope this short article helps you see this situation differently. More importantly, I hope this article helps you think about your own engagement first. Since engagement starts with us, work on your engagement first – it is a perfect example of role modeling the behavior you want to influence in others.
View the HRDQ-U webinar, Creating Engaged, Productive Long-Distanced Teammates