What's missing from employee engagement? Part 1

By Stuart Mackenzie and Sarah Phibbs-Moss 2nd October 2018 Leadership

What's missing from Employee Engagement?

Learn how to engage your employees in five days with our top leadership secrets. 

The Missing Ingredient of Employee Engagement. Part 1.

HR professionals registering to attend the Manchester HR Summit earlier this year were asked which services they believed would best serve their staff and teams in 2018 and beyond. 

The findings have been revealed and here are the top 5: 

The government sponsored report ‘Engaging for Success’ by David Macleod and Nita Clarke, which is still relevant today, presents compelling evidence that employee engagement is the key to better productivity. This is sound advice for any business struggling to maintain or improve its position in a tough market.

The message to leaders, managers and other stakeholders could not be clearer. If you want to improve organisational performance then raise your people’s level of engagement. 

Download our Employee Engagement guide and learn how to unlock the potential in your people. 

Traditionally, accepted research shows that the three pillars of ‘employee engagement’ are ensuring that your people feel: 

1. Valued 

2. Involved 

3. Developed. 

To understand the process of employee engagement beyond mere research figures we must start by reminding ourselves about basic human nature. This is where Abraham Maslow started many years ago. It is no coincidence that there is a correlation between the three pillars of feeling valued, involved and developed and Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’. 

The feeling of being valued, both economically and socially, links directly to Maslow’s need for security and esteem. 

“One of the deepest hungers of the human heart is to be valued for who we are”. Stephen Covey. 

The desire to be involved, and have one’s talents utilised and recognised, links to the need to belong. In an era when many people feel alienated and disassociated from the world around them there is the need to feel a part of the company rather than apart from the company.

The need to be developed, to unlock one’s potential, relates to the drive of self-actualisation. As children we can’t help to continuously develop, and there is no reason why this should stop the moment we hit adulthood. After all, our brain is still establishing certain thought patterns way in to our mid-twenties. The interesting point is that brain neurons are interchangeable, they can be moulded and remoulded by the means of different experiences and connections. To learn and extend oneself is evolutionary. 

Whilst these make sense, we believe there is an equally important fourth pillar. 

It is the need for people to feel: 

4. Inspired 

In turn, employees find meaning in their work. Self-actualisation is not in fact the highest need, but something Maslow called ‘self-transcendence’ where people feel that they make a difference and serve some purpose. It is when people feel this connection to a bigger idea, to something significant that they feel inspired. Inspiration in turn gives rise to new levels of enthusiasm and engagement. 

Leaders therefore need to know how to create meaning if they want true engagement. For example employees respond to organisations that have a reputation for social responsibility or for being a leader in the community. 

Your commitment to inspiring people is essential for creating talent engagement. Recognise and act on the knowledge that human beings need to feel they matter, make a difference and have some meaningful purpose. 

It is the leader's role to create the circumstances in which people can feel these positives. Rousing people to outstanding performance firmly rests on the fourth pillar of inspiring meaning at work. 

Only then do people produce outstanding performance. And, only then is an individual's potential unlocked, and with that, the organisation's potential. 

Five Inspirational Leadership Secrets Revealed: 

1. Legacy: Invite each direct report to describe the legacy that they would like to leave when they finally quit their job or the company.

Engaged people expect to make a difference. 

“We all leave footprints in the sand, the question is, will we be a big heal, or a great soul”. Anon. 

2. Authenticity: Discover today if people see you as authentic. Ask people if they know what you stand for and believe in.

People feel more ready to do their best for someone who is manifestly behaving in an authentic way. So share your humour, your values and your humanity. 

“To be authentic is literally to be your own author, to discover your own native energies and desires and then to find your own way of acting on them”. Warren Bennis. 

3. Creativity: decide to be a creative leader today who says, “Yes and…” not, “Yes but…”

If there is a knack to inspiring and unlocking potential it is to constantly build on other people’s suggestions, rather than knocking of finding faults. Assume that all your team can suggest improvements and have the potential to be inventive or imaginative. 

“Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties”. Erich Fromme. 

4. Imagination: be openly curious about one of your team members today and uncover what it will take to engage their talent.

By using your natural curiosity you will stimulate a sense of what is possible. Use your imagination to wonder what could exist beyond how things are now. 

“While knowledge tells us all we currently know and understand, imagination is more important and points to all we can discover and create”. Pablo Picasso. 

5. Meaning: Interact with each member of your team this week to discover whether they find their work fulfilling and worthwhile. If they don’t, do something about it.

People need to find meaning in their work so they can feel engaged and use their potential. 

“Work is a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread”. Studs Terkell. 

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