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Is there a secret to talent engagement? With a wealth of tips, blogs and reports on what makes an engaged work force, by now you might expect there to be a fairly clear route to creating engagement.

Most recently, Macleod of course spelled out the evidence on the benefits from engagement. The facts were so persuasive that you have to be in true denial to still wonder about its value.

But even if engagement works wonders, it still leaves the fundamental question of just what exactly will engage people so they go that extra mile?

A good starting point can be a staff survey. This can provide a picture of the extent to which people feel engaged, and by implication the sort of remedial action leaders might need to consider.

Gallup for example, was one of the first in the field with Q12 , a simple questionnaire that provides a framework for measuring engagement and by implication the sort of appropriate leadership action.

Gallup’s engagement ratio is also a broad indicator of an organization’s health. It tracks the proportion of engaged to actively disengaged employees.

In world-class organizations, for every eight fully engaged people there is one who is not. By contrast the average is closer to 1:5. That is for every engaged person there are five who are disengaged.

Mercer, another respected research organisation, uses a slightly different approach to clarifying what drives engagement at work. Its four global variables include opportunities for development, confidence and trust in leadership, recognition and rewards, and organizational communication.

To define these in more detail, Mercer suggests people’s engagement moves through four increasingly involved stages, in which they become satisfied, motivated, committed and finally [an] advocate.

This last, rather clumsily named stage occurs when people possess a mutual and vested interest in the organisation’s success. Mercer argues this is when people start to contribute discretionary effort and a willingness to go that extra mile.

Interestingly, Mercer further claims its research shows that engagement drivers differ across nations. For example, in the US the top three reasons people feel engaged are:confident can achieve career objectives, sense of personal accomplishment, and confident organization will be successful.

By contrast, in the UK the top three drivers are: a sense of personal accomplishment, confident in senior management and  opportunities for training.

Maynard Leigh Associates has a particular focus on what it takes to unlock people’s potential and much of the company’s work deals directly with triggering actual behavioural change.

Our 20 years of experience and research suggest that ultimately leaders and managers must learn to “see” what is needed in each situation. Like Mercer we would argue that a successful engagement strategy should be bespoke, reflecting the cultural and individual needs of each organisation.

So if managers must learn to “see” what their organisation needs to drive engagement how do they do that? We have developed the VIDI questionnaire and engagement framework in which people need to feel Valued, Involved, Developed and Inspired.

VIDI, from the Latin Videre to see, offers leaders and HR professionals a workable basis for action. It uses the answers from the 36 VIDI questions to help map the essentials of an engagement strategy. In essence, it allows executives “to see” what they need to do to raise current levels of engagement.

Clearly there are now some useful and usable frameworks for thinking about and devising talent engagement strategies. But it would be a mistake to assume that one can create these using a set of generic rules.

What works may differ both across companies, and even countries. The best strategies will always be highly bespoke, the result of leaders and managers “seeing” and hearing what employees really need.

Suppose your company business strategy is almost exclusively to maximise profits, you may be blinded to any benefits from investing in your people’s Development, the D of our VIDI framework. Instead, you may prefer to rely only on rewarding your top performers.

Such a short term focus may however place excessive pressure on high performers that they start to go astray. For example one of Gartmore’s top investors, was recently suspended pending the result of an “internal investigation” into directing trades. Mr Rambourg was previously fined €300,000 by regulators of the Italian stock market for committing market abuse in 2006.

Despite a strong desire by companies like Gallup, Mercer and Maynard Leigh to produce a credible engagement metric, the reality is that such data is inevitably only a starting point for devising a specific and appropriate engagement strategy.

For example, while the VIDI framework is about “seeing”, the reality is that it is also about hearing or listening—what do people say they want, what are your employees saying you should change?

“Most employee engagement is based on feelings,” says Stuart Mackenzie, managing director of Maynard Leigh Associates. “Our VIDI tool is an aid to seeing, a pair of spectacles, a magnifying glass.”

Talent Engagement—How to Unlock People’s Potential, from Maynard Leigh Associates, contact [email protected] and also on line: click here

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