Employee engagement is in crisis. Gallup says no improvement has shown up in close to the twenty years it has tracked it. Why is that? Much has to do with understanding employee engagement and its drivers. The current thought lets us down.
Wrong Turns In Understanding Employee Engagement
For instance, a search on employee engagement gives words like commitment, involvement, connection, behavior and organization. These fail us. Ones that talk about enthusiasm get closer. The best ones though have two key words: passion or emotion and relationship.
Therefore, an engaged employee is one who is passionate about his relationship to the other employees in the company, their managers and the customers they all serve. Note. It’s people and relationships. Period.
Take organization. What is it really? It’s people. It’s relationships. “Organization” strips the human face of employee engagement. The word is old. It arose in the late 1800s when the industrial revolution came to dominate business. It was to describe systems and establishments, not people.
Now, take words like commitment, behavior and involvement. What drives those? It’s passion, emotion. Logic and reason don’t motivate. Emotions do. That’s why “e-motion” comes from two Latin words that mean “bring forth motion.”
Understanding Employee Engagement Means Understanding Emotions And Relationships
Simply, understanding employee engagement means understanding the roles emotions and relationships play and how to tap them. The two form the bedrock of employee engagement. Dig deeper into any definition of employee engagement. Emotions and relationships show up.
The other definitions are too shallow. They lead us astray. Their avoidance of emotions and relationships leads us to believe a process, a system, a comp plan, or a mission or values statement will solve it all. None of these work if relationships aren’t good.
Now, let’s be clear. Yes, emotions stir this passion for other employees and customers. Yet, passion shows itself differently in people. It does not always show up on the faces of some. It shows up as quiet, focused, relentless work too. Passion allows us to endure tough times and long hours.
Words Limit How To See The Problem
Thus, any employee engagement plan must begin by stirring passions and strengthening relationships. Then, it must leverage them for action.
Deep inside words like organization (company, firm, enterprise) are people and relationships. Deep inside words like commitment, connections and involvement are emotions and passions.
Employee engagement efforts have failed because today’s words pose the problem in a way that only has us scratching the surface. They don’t allow for going to the root.