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The Employee Engagement Bandwagon – Sure, I’ll jump on this one.

  This blog was originally published on the “Tremendous Upside” – a digital talent digest from Kinetix.  Thank you to the team at Kinetix for allowing us to share this with you.

bandwagon///DISCLAIMER ALERT/// This is by no means is a way to create havoc in the HR space – okay, maybe a little – or to dissuade others of how they feel about the “Engagement” buzzword. This is merely an observation made after ruffling a few feathers and sharing a perspective on what I think Employee Engagement is and isn’t.

I was recently speaking to an HR group about “Engagement” and spent a lot of time talking about what it’s not; who doesn’t own it, and what bad engagement looks like – that was best part – and, what I perceive engagement to look and feel like and who really does “own it.”

During the presentation I asked for a show of hands of those who had “Engagement Programs” in their organizations – not one hand went up.  I really wasn’t sure if that was because no one knew what that was, or they were too embarrassed to be the only ones in the room with such.  So, I relieved their angst and told that I thought they were smarter than most.  Truth be told, I was secretly hoping that few people would have raised their hands so I could hear them describe their program – but no takers.

Anyway, I’m not going to bore you with my 2-hour preso, but there were a couple of “Ah Ha” moments that I that I think are worth more discussion.

Employee engagement is not a program you “put in place” or an “initiative” you write in your strategic goals.

Much like the culture of your company, engagement is not something you start, budget for or plan for. Engagement is, as described in Kris Dunns’ whitepaper, “It’s not you, it’s me, really. The Bootstrappers Guide to Employee Engagement”, the discretionary effort you don’t have to threaten someone to get.  Yes, it exists in organizations that have figured out what makes employees tick. Whether is compensation, ownership, letting their voice be heard and matter, or providing them what they need to be successful.  It’s the discretionary effort that provides the basis for solid engagement.

Employee Engagement is “owned” by the First-Level Manager

Yep, I said it. There is an owner to this crazy we call engagement. Why the first-level manager? Think about it, this is the first person an employee sees when they get to work, and the last person, in some cases it’s the janitor but this isn’t my story,  they see before they head home. This person has more ability to control your mood, happiness at work and often times any progression you hope to have in your company.

During my presentation, I used a made up analogy of being a new grad and having the ultimate goal of working at Kraft. This newbie really wants to be in marketing on a global perspective – big aspirations. Being smart about how to land a job at Kraft – their friend has a friend that works at the plant that packages the famous Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and they land a job there. Seems easy enough. Turns out their manager has other ideas, and due to his retirement being cut and needing to work past 65 to pay for his kids college education, of whom  is STILL living at home, the manager eyes this newbie as someone who needs to earn their keep packaging elbow macaroni – for a long time.  You know how this goes.

Fact is, based on how that manager sees the company as a whole, how the company has treated them and the tools/training they are given to manage, is how that newbie’s engagement level, or anyone else’s for that matter, will be determined.

While we can get it weeds with the data, impact on revenue, surveys – whateva, that my friends is where engagement lives and thrives. It could be on that line tossing bags of elbow macaroni around or the conference room where weekly meetings happen.

So, stop trying to figure out how much an Employee Engagement program costs and for the love of Pete, figure out how to get that old cod of the mac n’ cheese line before he can do anymore damage!

carol_mcdanielCarol McDaniel is the Senior Vice President at Kinetix – a Recruitment Process Outsourcing firm.  Carol’s background combines extensive Human Resource consulting, recruiting, marketing and advertising expertise.  With her strong understanding of the many challenges in today’s competitive labor market environment she is considered a subject matter expert in the employer marketing and branding process.  This expertise has proved to play a crucial role in the development of talent management and acquisition strategies for her clients.  Carol is a frequent speaker at HR and SHRM events, national programs and training seminars to focus on the areas of talent acquisition and talent communications. Carol also volunteers her time with the HR Florida State Council and serves on the Executive committee as the the President-Elect.  Read more from Carol here.

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1 Comment

  1. Carol
    Thank you! In many ways it is simple good human behavior and doesn’t have to be complicated. We engage our kids and partners everyday and as managers do the same at work just with a different relationship and purpose.
    It amazes me how little an employee sees or hears from their manager (not that we need to go to other extreme) but that interaction has so much opportunity. Bottom line – it is how you make people feel!

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