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Doug Shaw

What Goes Around Limited


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Blog: Engagement taskforce update – part two


Hello again – a couple of weeks ago, a bunch of us met with David MacLeod, Nita Clarke et al to continue encouraging the engagement taskforce.

What follows is part two of a transcript of the conversations that I heard. If you haven’t already read it, part one is here. Here goes anyway:

Part two
We were shown some sub groups of activity (click here for the headlines – pic 2 on the blog) which the taskforce wishes to develop and progress, and were invited to choose one and have a conversation about it in our groups.
We were a little greedy and talked about the barriers to engagement and engagement through adversity.
We felt that how well (or otherwise) redundancies are handled makes a big difference. Bad news is bad enough without it being cloaked in false hope and dishonesty.
Be straight with people and tell them as much as you possibly can. Authenticity is partly about sharing pain and discomfort. Big rises in exec pay and huge share options against a backdrop of cuts is disengaging.
We talked briefly about whether current management training schools people to lose touch. We acknowledged that managing beyond KPIs and targets is not easy and the emotional economics of work need to be explored. There should be more acknowledgement of the many differences between us.
A story was told whereby two separate local authorities devised and implemented a parking charges scheme for employees. One was imposed, the other suggested and agreed upon. Needless to say the involving approach worked – people were happy to adopt the scheme and get on with other more important things. In the imposed case, the charging scheme is still causing problems.
Management involves coercion – lead through involvement
Underperformance is not dealt with well, and in adverse times it seems that it’s dealt with even worse (perhaps as companies use underperformance to directly reduce staffing numbers – rather than deal with the root cause of the situation?).
Loyalty and respect have to flow all ways, short termism is a problem. Tough times lead to draconian compliance, fewer chances for self-determination and risk aversion thrives. Be risk astute.
Here are a few other things that buzzed around the room and caught my attention:
  • Work is increasingly no longer at the centre of people’s lives
  • Innovation is not an ideas box so crowd-source stuff – there was also talk of other cultures, e.g. China, which has a greater sense of community connectedness, where innovation works better as people are mindful not just of themselves, but of others too
  • Over engagement leads to burnout – wellbeing is partly about sustaining purpose and aspiration
  • Community connectedness is important
  • A results only working environment versus possible unravelling of workplace social fabric
What next?
Folks were encouraged to make connections and get involved with activities they felt strongly about. This is a good thing and I hope it will lead to more focus and less talking and more action. There will be another taskforce meeting next week and more news to follow on that (quickly I hope).
A couple of personal observations
Lots of emphasis on creating a movement not another model. I quite like that. Lots of emphasis and pushing for case studies and evidence. I’m much less keen on that.
As far as I’m concerned there’s sufficient evidence that the previous 100 years of management and coercion have produced less than satisfactory employee and customer experiences. I’d rather get on and co-create new ways of working with those people and companies who are interested, and let the rest stumble along until they either realise they need a new direction, or fade from view.
I’m turned off by the apparent need to turn this thing into a diagram. I prefer pictures and stories personally.
At the first of these meetings I observed that almost all the participants were white, seemingly middle class folk. It’s very rare these days that I find myself in a group of that size and think I am one of the younger ones in attendance.
I contacted the taskforce team after this first meeting to pass on this and a few other observations. The make-up of the group seems largely unchanged. This taskforce group are the now of work; we are not the future of work. I will ask again that the group be infused with some youth and cultural diversity. The group may well be experienced, and it also has lots to learn I’m sure.
I will be seeking to get more involved in ‘Barriers to Engagement’. I’ll keep you posted. There are some interesting supplementary comments and feedback on my blog – click here if you would like to read them. Oh, and if you made it this far, well done!

Doug Shaw is head of employee and customer engagement consultancy, What Goes Around Ltd.

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