How Does a Company 'Do' Employee Engagement?

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Have you ever heard a word and realized that you didn’t really know what it meant? As in, you heard it over and over but couldn’t nail down its use to a specific, enduring definition? One of these words for me early on in my corporate services role was employee engagement.  I understood what the word “employee” meant.  I understood what “engagement” meant. But when I put them together, I didn’t feel that I grasped the meaning as well as I should.

              Even right now if you google the phrase “definition of employee engagement,” you will see multiple links to articles, all with different definitions of employee engagement.  Some of these fall on abstract, emotional ties to the workplace and others are more concrete, discussing the signs and symptoms of engaged employees and their relationship with the organization. From what I can see, there is no universal definition for employee engagement like there would be for other business terms such as "compensation."  But I also see that it's a critically important approach for an organization to incorporate in managing people - its greatest asset.

              So, what is employee engagement and why is it important? Based on LeanCor's internal and external experience operating organizational cultures, and researching how people management ties into organizational success, I would define employee engagement as this: 

Employee engagement is the level of personal investment (emotional, intellectual) that an employee has with an organization as demonstrated by levels of interest, dedication and performance. 

Obviously this isn’t a perfectly comprehensive definition, but it asserts that engaged employees are critical for delivering customer value and are essential to move an organization forward on its journey to grow and advance.

              As mentioned in previous posts, LeanCor seeks advancement for our customers and employees -- or as we commonly refer to them - team members. This only happens through learning and learning only takes root when the team is a committed and energized one.  So the question for my corporate services team is this: “how do we create an environment that fosters strong levels of team member engagement?”

              Our founder and CEO Robert Martichenko recently produced a white paper with a colleague, Renee Smith, called “Make Work Meaningful.”  This paper, through its research and composition, paints a picture of a modern working world in which meaningful work is a more significant driver of employee engagement than past drivers such as compensation, prestige or stability. This idea is the crux of how we seek to drive our team member engagement strategy. The premise is that our team members are driven by meaningful work, so we want to provide opportunities to connect to the various levels of meaning that team members are seeking.  Here are some examples of how to do this:

  • Create opportunities to understand the "why." Through the on-boarding experience to launch events for new tools or processes, make sure that the approach to educating the team is focused on connecting the learner to the "why" behind the work. These connections show how actions drive value and empower team members to make value-added decisions.
  • Create opportunities for growth and learning. Create opportunities for team members to expand their horizons and break out of the “routine” of the day-to-day with occasional training, simulations or lunch-and-learns. The topics should be informative and relevant even if not directly related to the team member's daily work.  The goal is to get team members thinking so that they can carry that intellectual momentum back into their work.
  • Create opportunities for cross-functional collaboration. Being part of a team is an age-old way to create positive emotional energy. If camaraderie can be created through things such as projects and events with team members in different departments, those team members integrate deeper within the organization.
  • Create opportunities to serve. Meaningful work for many is synonymous with work that matters to others. Creating community give-back opportunities is a slam-dunk for connecting with service-related meaning.  But serving isn't limited to outside the organization. Internal volunteer committees where team members can serve their peers and improve the organization is a win-win.
  • Create opportunities to own. Embrace team member autonomy. When small projects or training opportunities come up that a corporate services team would normally own, empower enthusiastic and capable team members to volunteer to own them instead. These projects allow team members to demonstrate their investment through ownership. They know they are literally helping to build the organization.
  • Create opportunities to connect team members with organizational performance. If there is any surefire way to demotivate team members, it is to keep secrets and hide the fruits of their labor. Reporting business and customer results shows team members that they are truly part of both the organization's successes and struggles and that they need to be part of the solution. When this is shared and delivered appropriately, team members can see their impact on the industry and world around them, which is critical for connecting to meaningfulness.

Remember, the key takeaway with employee engagement isn’t properly defining it. Rather, it is understanding its value and harnessing that value for the organization's benefit. Employee engagement is ultimately a by-product of the meaningfulness equation, so building an environment with opportunities to establish that meaning is the task at hand.  And, as the fruits of this labor are produced, team members will build that culture of meaningfulness themselves.

Posted by Clint McCrystal

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Training and Development Manager at LeanCor | I am an individual with many interests, and I like to leverage both my creative and analytical skills.

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