As promised, here is my next set of scribblings, my interpretation of the second part of the engagement taskforce “guru group” meeting. I can barely bring myself two write those two words. Guru. Group…..shudder! I really don’t like that term – enough said on that.

Part two of the meeting involved a discussion at tables for twenty minutes to decide what activity we thought the taskforce should prioritise. Now if getting answers to the first question had at times proved tricky – what followed was a little more challenging. I often observe that people sometimes need gentle reminding and refocusing on the matter in hand. Folk are generally great at offering opinions – not always so good at answering questions. And I find this often gets even trickier when it comes to making specific actionable suggestions. I want to be clear – I’m a part of this group and therefore partly responsible. I’m not singling it out, this is behaviour I observe often and so I was not surprised to see it here.

Our table discussion started and it was almost all theoretical. I sat and listened, waiting for action to emerge from theory. I waited for over ten minutes before interjecting and suggesting that with half our allotted time gone, we should move from theory to practice. Here’s what we managed to come up with:

After the twenty minutes were up each table was invited to set out its stall. I must stress that what follows is what I heard – it is not some official output. I tried really hard to capture what people were saying and just like before I’m sure I will have missed stuff. So here goes:

Transcript from the Engagement Taskforce Guru Group Meeting held at 1 Victoria Street London on 19 May 2011

Question #2 what things do we think the taskforce should prioritise and address first?

What’s in it for the employer and employee? Need both for UK plc

Share experiences and stories of employee “voice”.

Identify where improvement has been sustained and share – what is the succession plan?

Shareholders as blockers

How does a manager become engaging?

Engagement as part of core values

Share reality of good practice

The language is too simplistic

How do we deal with a U shape of engagement where the people at the top and the front line are engaged and middle management isn’t?

Leadership styles

Is employee engagement too passive could it be more two way?

Use social tools to help give voice

Create a community resource – open source employee engagement

3 tensions:

1 – A discipline, on the surface it’s disposable deeper it sustains, create meaning, it’s an enabler not an outcome

2 – Data versus insight, quantitative versus qualitative

3 – What’s in it for the employee and the employer? Value congruence – wellbeing

Why are you (the taskforce) a part of this? Passion? Gain? Personal and give and share?

Experiment together – try new stuff and see what works and what doesn’t

Stop doing engagement surveys, at least for a while. Stop the measurement and focus more on the doing

Embodiment of engagement

Convince sceptics

Twelve months time looks like what?

Survey versus intelligent data

Civil service, engagement has gone down, and pockets have gone up – why?

Leadership style for engagement – what is it?

Don’t want a set of tools for middle management

Separate the engagement index from bonuses

Blank sheet – ask employees what they want to do – not a choice of x, y or x

Career development

How do the armed forces create engagement?

Challenge the assumption that scores should go up every year – this is not sustainable

There are some things in this list which interest me and at the same time I’m not very comfortable with it. Maybe we need a clearer view on what resources the taskforce is to invest into the project to help focus the thinking, but for me – this output is too loose and too theoretical. When a colleague at our table read out my stop doing the surveys request and focus on acting on what people are saying – that got a laugh. I had to stress that I was quite serious and I’d like this request put to the taskforce. I wonder if it will make it onto the list?

So there you have it – my views on an interesting gathering last week. It’s early days so I ask that we don’t judge too harshly yet. I will be interested to see what emerges post the taskforce meeting scheduled for June 8th. And if there is anything you wish to add to this post I would be very pleased to hear from you. It has stimulated an energetice debate here.