My very first encounter with the term to “engage” many years ago was while watching Star Trek – The Next Generation. It was the catchphrase of choice of one Jean Luc Picard, captain of the Starship Enterprise and according to Wikipedia (the font of all Star Trek related trivia) was a catchphrase first used in “Encounter At Farpoint” (28 September 1987) by Gene Roddenberry, and thereafter used in many episodes and films, instructing a crew member to execute an order. In more recent times the verb has been replaced by the buzzword and has become less of an order but no less authoritative in it’s use, with “employee engagement” commonly sprinkled in many corporate discussions. It features regularly in all forms of “corporate speak” and is an aspiration for all companies.

But what does it mean to be “engaged”? Does it mean as an employee of a company, that I share the same values and goals of my employer? Or do I seek out some higher purpose or meaning in my job, beyond satisfying the bottom line financial requirements? Am I sufficiently emotionally invested in the vision and mission of the company to simultaneously achieve my own and the company’s goals?

In a recent documentary on RTE, Cilian Fennell of Stillwater Communications opined that

it can be extremely difficult to motivate people purely by bottom line in any business unless they have a significant financial stake hold in the company“.

Makes sense doesn’t it, I mean why would you go beyond the call of duty if there is no financial inducement to do so? Cilian went on to further point out that this is the reason why many businesses look for meaning, a reason beyond financial gain that will motivate their staff. He cited an MIT study conducted some years back on motivation which found there were three things that motivated people.

  1. AUTONOMY – The ability to work and make decisions on your own.
  2. MASTERY – The ability to be trained to become excellent at your craft.
  3. PURPOSE – The knowledge that you’re working towards something bigger than just the bottom line.

Once these three functions are within a business, talent retention is less of an issue as people naturally stay longer when they feel that they have a vested interest in doing so. Financial rewards become less of a motivating factor and the employee is said to be “engaged”. But if these don’t exist within a business, engagement or the feeling of belonging slowly erodes and talent drains away. This is why many companies invest heavily in developing a culture or set of values that they can build around their products and services, thus providing their staff with a “higher purpose” and meaning to their roles. This feeling of belonging within any environment perhaps is the best testament to true employee engagement.

But this form of engagement can be tenuous at best if not supported by employees who buy into the culture and values as set out by their employers. In some cases employee engagement can be significantly increased by encouraging them to participate in the creation of said culture and values and to be visible role models and champions of these values within the business. By contributing to the scripting and shaping of meaning and purpose beyond financial gain within a business, employees should feel more valued and engaged.

Simply including them in the process has the knock on effect of shifting the emphasis away from an outcome and output driven focus to one that is inherently esoteric and inclusive. It fosters within an employee a desire to contribute, to be a more active participant in achieving the companies goals, whilst providing an outlet for diversity of thought and opinion on what makes that company special. Financial success becomes an incidental by-product in these companies where having set out their unique culture and values, job satisfaction and a general feeling of happiness amongst employees is more often prevalent.

Many companies spend an increasing amount of time and money conducting employee engagement surveys to gauge the mood and the pulse of their staff, inviting feedback and constructive criticism of what they’re doing right but more importantly what they’re doing wrong. These surveys tend to be very subjective in nature but do encourage communication and discourse in a tailored environment, allowing employees the opportunity to provide useful commentary on their respective levels of job satisfaction and engagement.

So what do you do if you feel that your employees aren’t fully attuned to the companies goals and objectives? How about requesting feedback as part of their annual appraisal? Does your company offer 360 feedback facilities? Don’t shy away from criticism, no matter how trivial it might seem. Rather embrace the opportunity to learn from the people who work with you. Honest, open communication is the hallmark of any healthy employer/employee relationship and you’re guaranteed that an engaged employee will remain absorbed and enthusiastic about contributing the success of your company long after others are past caring.

To discuss the best ways to source and retain fully engaged staff, why not call Campbell Rochford today and speak with an expert.

Campbell Rochford – Turning Good to Great – Financial Recruitment Specialists

18-19 College Green, Dublin 2, Ireland

t: 00 353 1 9065116

m: 00 353 860615667

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