Sometimes I wonder if employee engagement is only a problem because people feel like “the company” doesn’t care about them. The company is filled with people: managers and peers. “The company” is cold and unfeeling but people typically are not.
Do we inadvertently reinforce the “cold and unfeeling” reputation by hiring consultants and marketers to tell us how to “engage” our employees?
Think about the last place you worked at that you really enjoyed. What did you enjoy? A guess on my part:
- A manager that didn’t micro-manage but was still a helpful and available resource.
- A good group of co-workers. You and your teammates could talk about stuff besides work and maybe (gasp!) even spent time together outside of work.
- Work that you believed in and/or felt had an impact on the organization.
- Clearly defined team and individual goals
- Fair compensation
If you had all of the above would the company down the street offering free food be as attractive?
Maybe. Maybe not.
The longer I work in HR the more I think employee engagement isn’t a problem. The problem is a myriad of issues that have existed for a long time: poor management, communication, unfair treatment, etc;
But what can you do to tackle these heady organizational issues?
- Work for a company that cares about its employees. This is easier said than done but the good news is these companies come in all shapes, sizes and geographic locations. With a baseline established, it is much easier tackle issues like diversity, training and fair treatment.
- Network – Connect with other HR pros to find out how they tackle problems in their organizations.
- Read – Yes of course, I’m going to suggest blogs (check out my blogroll to get started) but there are a number of books you can read that dive deep on issues all organizations face (check out my Renegade HR Library for some suggestions).
- Work across functional lines. When you care about the people in your organization you try to hep them do better work. People are more than a “resource” or “talent” to be managed, so read the data on your engagement survey’s. Which departments have poor managers? Complaints about computers still running XP? High turnover? Work across business and functional lines to get these problems fixed.
I started this post asking if employee engagement was a new problem. Answer: I’m not sure. But I’m also not sure it matters. We (HR) need to use the tools we have on hand to develop creative solutions that benefit our companies and the people that work in them. Beyond that it really doesn’t matter what we call it.
What do you think about employee engagement? Same old story? Something different and critical to address? Hit me up in the comments!