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Shonette Laffy


Deputy Editor

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The Employee Engagement Executive Breakfast


How many people are affected by an engagement program?

How many employees do you have? Multiply that by their friends, their families. How engaged people are at work ripples through to their home life too.

We’d barely got through our first coffee before we were asked the above by The Maritz Institute, and it was a thought-provoking opener. We often forget about the far-reaching implications of our work life, and how it affects us outside of the office.

The Maritz Institute are an organisation focused on unleashing human potential in organisations, using neuroscience and research to inform its work with businesses.

The Joy Factor

Maritz’s latest research report has focused on two key aspects; whether employees enjoy a positive emotional experience in their jobs, and if they believe it to be meaningful work.

The statement Maritz felt was most crucial in their questionnaire to employees was “I experience joy at work” – a contentious one both in terms of what their team thought should be included, and what participants felt they could answer. Why is this such a difficult question to ask people?

Another question was whether employees felt fulfilled by their work – less hyperbolic but also a key indicator of how engaged they are. It’s been proven time and again by various studies that engaged employees are more likely to stay with a company, are more confident (ergo contribute more ideas or innovate within their roles), and are also more likely to talk about their job and companies to others; so it’s easy to see how what starts as a seemingly HR issue also branches into brand reputation, marketing, and even customer service. Engagement matters, and it matters to execs, managers and employees alike.

HRZone editor Jamie Lawrence thinks that the problem is that a lot of language associated with engagement programs simply sounds like jargon or is too vague (‘employee engagement’ being a case in point). ‘Joy’ and ‘fulfillment’ are personal feelings and therefore very subjective and hard to measure, whereas ‘employee engagement’ is about a larger purpose and metrics, so how can you bring the two together?

Strengths & Weaknesses

We were joined by senior executives from a broad selection of companies and industries – all interested in improving engagement within their organisation, or getting fresh ideas to add to the work they’ve already started.

The group were asked by Maritz to first of all choose from a selection of pre-written cards and select which of the attributes they felt their company was doing well, and one they needed to improve on.

‘Providing a good focus on customer experience and considering stakeholders’ seemed to come out as the area which people felt their company prioritised, whereas ‘Making personal connections/socially enriching environments’ was an area for improvement across the board – an understandably difficult area especially for larger companies, or those comprised of more freelance or remote staff. It was interesting to see that despite the difference in industries and companies sizes represented, the problems and priorities for many were fairly similar.

Time to Debate

Author and keynote speaker for the Employee Engagement Conference Aaron Hurst facilitated discussions and spoke about the importance of purpose for employees, and got our execs thinking on their feet with some lively debates!

Firstly, should we have a personal or organisational approach to engagement – which should come first? This seemed like a difficult first debate for our execs.

For the second debate, Aaron described the three types of individuals that tend to make up an organisation (interestingly, each makes up a third of the workforce irrespective of industry):

  • Money driven – motivated by salary & pay rises

  • Ego driven – like telling people about their job/status

  • Purpose driven people – higher performance, more loyal, more friends at work

Our executives were asked to discuss which is better for an organisation – employing solely purpose-driven individuals versus having a mix of types – what is the value of both sides and what should the strategy be for a successful company? Would more purpose-driven people in an organisation be more productive?

This was a far livelier debate, as the groups challenged whether we would want an organisation of people who think and work the same. There are also the problems of how you would categorise people and whether it is fair to do so? Also, don’t each of these motivations bring with them their own set of skills, or encompass each of us at different stages of our working life?

Enable your People

Aaron rounded off the morning by saying that more than anything, we should be doing all we can to enable our people, and asking if company culture has changed the way we work already.

Several people around the table agreed that company culture has already changed their priorities, but it was clear that a lot of work still needs to be done to make this the norm and change the approach companies have to their employees. As Aaron said,

“I don’t motivate my team, I work for motivated people and get the hell out of their way.”

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Shonette Laffy

Deputy Editor

Read more from Shonette Laffy

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