I’ve just presented at the CIPD annual engagement conference and listened to a wealth of skilled and talented HR Directors, from companies such as Nationwide, Merlin Entertainment Group and Arriva offer their insight on what an engagement culture looks like in their own businesses and how they have hit impressive performance highs as a result.
The overwhelming message is that no business can afford to opt for a quick engagement fix. A culture of half-hearted leaders who don’t put their money where their mouth is and really, truly drive performance from the top down is not going to sustain strong performance. It accounts why you sense the frustration amongst those tasked to ‘do engagement’ because it still isn’t seen as a boardroom agenda for some businesses (well, not one that requires them to leave the boardroom and get out into the business anyway). Sadly, it’s far easier to roll out the next annual staff survey and conclude that engagement is ‘done’. Done for another year!
Engagement is never ‘done’. The best leaders I know are like a dog with a very juicy bone when it comes to driving the best (not most) performance from their people. And engagement is hard, sometimes seemingly unappreciated work.
It also involves investing more of ‘you’ in the business, putting yourself out there and literally seeing and experiencing who contributes, how and whether the business is valuing them back. Great engagers do this. Not because its ‘easy’ for them but because they work at it and know it helps build cultures where people want to stay and perform.
So, what else can we learn from great engagers? Here are four things you might not know:
1) They don’t always find it comes naturally to them – the best managers and leaders work at their weakest role in engaging others – whether it’s being more aspiring or pinning down the detail to get people working and achieving at their best
2) They don’t do it alone. Great engagers use all the help and support they can get, from having a mentor, to seeking support from HR on any new initiatives and schemes
3) They believe in developing others as part of their own development: great engagers are interested in how people can identify and fuel their own engagement. Telling people is a turn off, asking people brings wonderful insight
4) They consider it their job, not part of their job. Leaders and managers who sincerely want to elicit the best performance from others don’t squeeze it in as extra duty or afterthought
So next time you feel like you are pushing water uphill when it comes to engagement, look around your company and see who your engagers are (it might not necessarily be the most visual people in the business). Once you spot them, you can make a commitment to do a little bit more of what they do – and, most importantly, encourage others to do the same.