Role of Meaning-Makers in Employee Engagement
For the past month, Ted and I hosted some extraordinary thinkers who ruminated on the value, application and future of employee engagement. First we want to thank all who participated. We learn from you and are honored to share your voice on this important topic.
This brings me to a question I want to explore: why does employee engagement matter?
Engaged employees has eluded many organizations, often becoming another management fad or meaningless surveys of which the results become shelf-ware. If it’s so important why do organizations, managers and employees fail to see the ascribed benefits of engagement efforts?
Certainly the answers are varied. Yet perhaps the most likely culprit is engagement is treated as an event. Let me explain.
Engaged employees, hell human beings, will put forth their best effort when they see they are appreciated
Each year or every other year an employee engagement survey is delivered via email to all employees. It’s arrival is trumpeted by an email from the CEO explaining the survey’s importance. This is the event. It’s followed by survey results disseminated to managers and some messaging shared with employees. End of event. Now go about your work.
Engagement is treated as some check-the-box-exercise on management’s long list of to-dos. It’s squeezed in between budget meetings, project status reports, committee meetings, blah blah blah.
Truth is engagement is not something planned if its done intentionally. Engagement is a leadership act. Not a management task.
Engaged employees has eluded many organizations, often becoming another management fad or meaningless surveys of which the results become shelf-ware
Engagement exists in the interactions between managers and employees. It’s where managers take on the important role of meaning-makers: managers help employees uncover and exploit meaning in their work all the while knowing that they matter. That their work matters.
This isn’t some group-hug moment. It’s where management, business and humanity intersect. Engaged employees, hell human beings, will put forth their best effort when they see they are appreciated. When what employees believe that what they do has significance to those whom the organization serves.
The role of meaning-maker is one that is woven throughout a manager’s daily actions, both planned and spontaneous
This does not occur when engagement is treated as event. When it’s an event it becomes unauthentic. The event is awkward at first then becomes annoying. Hopes are raised and quickly dashed when the event passes. Such an approach is void of meaning.
The role of meaning-maker is one that is woven throughout a manager’s daily actions, both planned and spontaneous. It’s planned when managers make time to know their employees’ hopes, dreams, plans for the future. It’s spontaneous when managers see an important teaching moment presents itself when an employee fails.
Employee engagement matters because it reveres the innate human desire to do work that matters, to do work that is meaningful. Without employee engagement the spawns of hierarchy, bureaucracy, command-and-control, for example, dominate and suck the humanity out of our workplaces.
Employee engagement will not thrive when its handled like an event. But when it is vigilantly cultivated and purposefully spread through the interactions between managers and employees, it becomes a way of working. It becomes part of a company’s culture.
Graphic by Shawn Murphy