The Challenge of Staff Engagement

Staff at the City of Karratha 2015

The Start of Your Journey

Today’s blog kicks off a series of articles on staff engagement. The purpose of the staff engagement series is to give you short, sharp insights in how to make the necessary changes right now. In otherwords, those things that will have an impact from today.

Over the coming weeks we will explore together what staff engagement is, why it is important to you and your organisation, and the key tools you can use to build engagement, and of course when to use them.

At the end of the series, you will have access to the Strategic Teams eBook: The Secret Art of Engaging Employees. In the meantime you can access our Slideshare Presentation: Engage, Communicate and Act – Getting the Most From Your Team.

Setting the Scene: Differing Opinions

The use of staff/employee engagement is a key mechanism for any organisation. Although there are differing opinions on what staff engagement is (Ames, 2014; Bersin, 2014; Harter, 2015; Zinger, 2015), nevertheless its underpinning core consists of making employees feel valued and involving them in what happens in the workplace. In short, staff engagement is the key to achieving key outcomes regarding the organisation you work for, own or manage.

However, there is research on the effectiveness of staff engagement that shows it is a declining trend (Ashraf, 2012), while others (Bacall, 2014; Tripe, 2014) advocate that we shouldn’t use it at all. If anything it has transformed into culture change (Tripe, 2014).

For my mind, engagement works. Like all things, commonsense is the key when deciding on how to approach matters Involving the engagement of staff. After all, they are people just like you and me.

The Encouragement and Involvement of Employees

Similar to engaging customers, or members of the community, employees must also be engaged. So, what does staff engagement mean? Is it employees being switched on, committed to the organisation, supportive of the hierarchy, or going the extra mile?

Well, the starting point is accepting that our employees are the most important resource we have. Nothing we do, or wish to achieve in the workplace can be done without them. 

As such, the engagement of the people who work for us is more than just asking (or demanding) something of them. Engagement itself, is a many varied mechanism that can be used to encourage and involve employees in the seeking of better outcomes on an ongoing basis.

For example, if there is a need to create a better work environment, the engagement method might be as simple as holding a staff meeting to discuss options. A more involved method may include a presentation and feedback session, or perhaps even a series of workshops. As Goleman (2015), puts it: “starting a conversation about what they’d like to accomplish”.

So, the engagement of employees may be strategic (ongoing), or tactical (short term, or as we like to say: the here and now) in nature.

In terms of reflecting on the above, I know some of you are saying right now: “aren’t staff meetings a waste of time, well that’s what some of the gurus say, or I never get anything out of them, or they’re boring, or they’re a waste of time and so on”. Well, I have found In my experience you need to hold staff meetings for two main reasons:

  • As a former CEO and senior manager, I found regularly, when starting at a new organisation, the number one complaint that would ooze from staff was: we never get told what is happening here, we don’t know what’s going on, so and so never listens to what I say and so on;
  • It’s an opportunity for you to help your team(s) deal with issues through embracing solutions by asking them: what is troubling you/us, where are the roadblocks, what do you think about this, or has this been tried before, do you have any ideas how to solve this problem etc.

In essence, staff meetings are the perfect example of treating employees ethically i.e. with respect, openness and honesty. It also means seeking their buy-in and asking them for their feedback. Not only must we show our level of commitment, we must also follow-up with them regularly and show our appreciation for the work they do. Staff meetings and workshops are the perfect way to do this.

In the next blog we will look at the characteristics of engagement, what the disengaged employee looks like as opposed to what the engaged employee looks like.

In the meantime, I welcome any comments you may have on staff engagement in the comments box below 😎

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2 thoughts on “The Challenge of Staff Engagement

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