Making Rands and Sense of Employee Engagement

While there are various definitions of employee engagement, this concept is commonly understood to reflect the extent to which employees feel passionate about their jobs, are committed to the organization, and put discretionary effort into their work. And by discretionary effort, we mean the extent to which employees will invest their personal time and resources into getting the job done.

Employee engagement is receiving increasing attention as organisations realize that engaged employees will be inspired to produce world class levels of innovation, productivity and performance leading to great financial impact.

I don’t know about you, but to me this seems like a one sided relationship. Where in the definition of employee engagement do we see what’s in it for the employee? It may be easier to just define employee engagement as a how-can-we-get-more-out-of-our-employees-process.

While in the real world there are numerous examples of true employee engagement with magnificent outcomes, the only driving force behind most engagement initiatives is employer profitability. This is why employee engagement strategies are often unsuccessful or marginally successful and why, irrespective of the fancy employee engagement initiatives, employees can so easily hop from one job to the next. Of course that’s not the only reason for employees breaking off the relationship with an employer.

We know that Generation Y have made a hobby out of job hopping and that Generation X have different drivers to Baby Boomers. And when you throw race, background, gender, education, financial status, upbringing, etc, into the mix; it creates an even more complex base upon which to build an engagement platform.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge advocate for employee engagement. Employee engagement has its heart in the right place; perhaps if we added to the definition it would become not just more palatable but very desirable from an employer as well as an employee perspective. What if we viewed employee engagement not just as a tool to get more out of employees, but as a means for the employee to get more out of their lives?

The massive work-life balance rumblings in the workplace has its source in the belief that people have just two sides to their lives (personal and professional) and that both sides have an equal weight. While this article is not about work-life balance, this misguided notion that we’re all two dimensional beings makes little sense and should be set aside.

People are multi-dimensional beings who yearn for balance in their lives and who want to be successful in all areas of their lives (Professional, Family, Social, Financial, Spiritual, Physical and Mental). Employee engagement programs should be purposefully aimed at assisting employees to unleash their potential in all areas of life that they hold important, and in so doing will help employees feel the sense of balance that they desire and will encourage them to thrive not only as professionals or employees but as whole beings.

This does not mean significant increases in employee engagement spend, nor does it mean that the existing strategy needs to be thrown out and replaced with a brand new model. It just means that it is time to start looking at engagement programs more from an employee perspective and also time to start increasing the level of accountability that employees have in making these engagement programs work. Organisations that get this right will create not just engaged employees but happy employees.

And, creating happy employees is what employee engagement should be all about. The appeal to the employer is that apart from the direct financial impact to the business, happy employees are more inclined to be healthier, to give back to their communities and to make a positive difference to their environment. With more than 1.3 billion of the world’s population living in extreme poverty and global warming threatening the very existence of generations to come, now more than ever, the world needs happy employees. Happy employees don’t just make Rands, they make Rands and Sense!

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