A real buzzword in HR at the present moment in history is ENGAGEMENT.
You hear it everywhere – around the conference circuit, at management meetings, on consultants’ lips, at the water cooler, in HR news, in the Twittersphere and on it goes…Are our employees engaged with this business, and if not, how can we make them more so?
Employee engagement is clearly a defining feature of modern day Human Resources. And a good one at that. It stands up easily to scrutiny that if your employees are engaged with their work, and feel a genuine sense of belonging to their workplace environment – making a difference each day – that they will be happier, more productive, and more likely to stick around rather than constantly be looking outwards for a better opportunity.
They will work harder, perform better in teams, be more productive, more proactive and more enthusiastic. Arrive early, finish late, ‘take one for the team’, ‘get the job done’; all the while enjoying their work life and all the rewards it brings….
But what happens, as is often the case, when this wonderful employee engaged to their work comes in one morning, chooses a date, buys the dress, sends out the invitations, books a venue and decides to get married?
What happens to those same productivity levels, that sense of fulfillment, fun and passion, that drive to see the company succeed…what happens to these aspects of an employees’ psychological make-up when they become married to their job?
We all know someone like this – sadly there is rarely any honeymoon period – we move from engagement to unhappily married almost straight away. Those married souls, the ones talking incessantly about the minutiae of each day, analyzing and over-analyzing every word from their manager and their direct reports, checking emails on their Smartphone every 15, 5, 2 minutes. Reading emails when they should be at home talking to their kids about how school was, waking at 2am to see if that contract came through yet….
I’ve been there myself.
What started as engagement and a genuine drive to see a business I worked with grow eventually morphed into the marriage phase, where lack of sleep (travel schedule, responding to emails), and lack of conversation topics (“can we please talk about something else” said one family member) helped me evolve into a robot. All that productivity, passion and enthusiasm went out the window, and was replaced with a mechanical, automatic stimulus-response paradigm.
“I know it’s Friday evening, but I really need this 200 page report on my desk by Monday for the 8am meeting.”
“Of course, no problem – it shall be done.”
We need to beware of pushing too hard down the engagement yellow brick road from a management level. Somewhere along that path, past all the good that comes from having connection, contentment and camaraderie in our workplaces, we reach a tipping point where stress leave, shrinking performance, maybe even sabotage take over.
Sabotage of company goals, sabotage of employee sanity, and sabotage of exactly what we set out to achieve by following the engagement mantra in the first place.
It is clear that engaged employees are an asset to any business, large or small. But from a strategic management perspective, it is important to invest in, build on and encourage that asset to grow – not to let it depreciate like the fleet of company vehicles out back in the parking lot.
And the fine line between engagement and marriage is one any HR department must be empowered to clearly define. That way ensuring employees can maintain a long-term happy and productive relationship with their fiancée – the company.
ALEX KELLY – 22nd May 2015