Got Engagement?

Are you wondering where the engagement is in your organization? Do you feel your company is as good as many, with good employees, and yet somehow there seems to be no magic? Are you waiting for lightning to strike?

Engagement is indeed elusive for many organizations that on the surface seem to have all the right pieces in place. It is like leadership, character, and many other qualities so important to the success of any enterprise – you know it when you see it, but it is difficult to define, and even more difficult to capture. It is, as Jon Bon Jovi once said, like catching “lightning in a bottle.”

So, how do we get the lightning in the bottle? If we want to build and sustain an environment of engagement, where do we begin? How can we be sure that we will be successful, and not taking the wrong path, or wasting precious time and resources that will create no return?

The answer is simpler than we may think. The model is in our own homes.  If we want to have a successful home environment, we know that a house is not enough. The house must be transformed into a home through careful and deliberate effort, much as a workplace must be transformed into a place in which engagement can thrive. It does not happen with a memo or promotion in the workplace, any more than it will happen if we send a memo to our family members announcing that we will be a happy family.

Four key milestones will help move us in the right direction. First, we must think about the setting, and make the home as much as possible an environment that encourages the behavior that will help us to succeed. Is the neighborhood surrounding our home a place that encourages us? Are there neighbors and friends who can help? Is there a place for family members to come together within the home for meals, conversation, and to discuss needs and aspirations? Does everyone have the nourishment and resources they need to be successful each day? How can family members express their personality and interests within their own room, or some place in the home they consider to be their own?

These are all aspects of the home as a physical location that is important as a setting for engagement. It is the same with a workplace, and even in virtual work environments, efforts can be made to allow individuals to express themselves, interact meaningfully with others, and manage their own “space.”

Care should be taken to facilitate interaction, provide the proper resources to complete tasks, invite individualism, and provide positive and accessible places for individuals and teams to communicate, plan and celebrate success.

The second thing that is needed for a spirit of engagement to thrive is a sense of mission, and a culture in which individuals are brought together to accomplish the mission. In the family environment, the mission may include spiritual, intellectual, educational, financial and community goals. There is a sense of belonging to a larger whole, and an interest in supporting other families or groups in their mission, as well.

In the workplace, engaged individuals must feel they support a mission in which they believe, and goals to which they can contribute. There must be a shared culture, which becomes the foundation and reinforcement of the engagement process. This culture creates common ground in the setting of goals, development of processes, and response to situations that may arise internally, as well as with customers and other external contacts. It is a compass ensuring harmony and consistency in the running of the organization.

Third, an organization committed to an engaged culture requires processes that support the mission, and the engagement effort. In the family setting, this may mean regular family meetings in which each member plays a part, participation of each member in chores and other activities, and a group effort in celebrating holidays and special occasions.

In the work environment, it does little good to talk about engagement, if only a few members of the organization make most of the decisions, with no opportunity for contribution from other team members. Processes that encourage engagement provide opportunity for team discussions, contribution by all team members, creating of new opportunities for everyone, and meaningful recognition for success.

Fourth, the engaged organization requires employees selected for the value they bring to the culture of the organization. As the enthusiasm and contributions of family members are irreplaceable, so are the contributions of engaged team members in the workplace. The selection process must provide adequate information for candidates to understand expectations and be sure they wish to participate. Employees must receive opportunities for development that help them succeed as team members in the engaged environment. Recognition must emphasize the behaviors most valued by the organization, and must take into consideration the relationships that support them.

So, this is where we find engagement – we look around to be sure our surroundings, culture, processes, and teammates each play a vital role in ensuring we will build our “home” at work on a solid foundation.

What are your thoughts? Has your organization covered all of the bases with a committed and actionable plan? In what other ways are the answers, like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” right at your own front door?

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