Engage with employees? Really?

Employee engagement might sound like the latest buzz phrase that has to be an agenda item on any self-respecting communication conference. Gone is the phrase internal communication and instead we are now looking for a much more rounded view of where the employee sits in the organisation. It is easy to be cynical about this, particularly if you have been working in communication for some time.

Today I had an enlightening experience where the world of employee engagement suddenly got real. The presentation from Nita Clarke of Engage for Success was really eye-opening and in many respects it was because of the simplicity of dealing with a massively complex issue.

I am sure most people now know that an engaged workforce will be more likely to innovate, develop and work smarter to support the organisation. So why do many organisations and businesses still insist on command and control communication that treats everyone the same and eventually will switch off those engaged employees?

Trust and confidence in the workplace is as important as trust and confidence from customers, citizens or service users. Nita made an important point that employee engagement is not something for one team to own, whether that is the comms team or the HR team, but everyone in the organisation should take ownership of it. Achieving that is not easy and we know that there will be some pain ahead of moving towards better engagement.

What was obvious from the discussion today is that organisations have to be in a position to take this step forward. The environment needs to be right to allow a change to take place. Within this the role of the CEO is critical because the values have to be more than words that sit on a wall in an office. They have to be seen every day within the organisation, in the interactions, in what gets rewarded and in the level of involvement that people feel they have. When people try something and it doesn’t work they need to have the freedom to move on. This is one of the most difficult things to achieve, particularly in any regulated industry. I have written many times about the need to take risks particularly in the era of modern communication.

Employee engagement may sound like just another buzz word and in some places that is what it may become. Today I have seen it can be much more if we will grasp it.

 

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