Employee Engagement – Here’s How it Works; And, Here’s Where it Doesn’t Quite Work This Way

So, we are back to common sense basics when it comes to employee engagement. In this terrific article, Why Engagement Happens In Employees’s Hearts, Not Their Minds: Winning Your Employees Over To Stick With The Company Long Term Involves An Array Of Factors—But First Among Those Is Love by Mark Crowley, we learn again that treating people like human beings is the key to successful employee engagement. Is anyone surprised?

Here are the five key points in Mr. Crowley’s article.

What truly inspires worker engagement in the 21st century can best be described as “emotional currency.” Here’s what that means:

  • Having a supervisor that cares about us, our well-being, and personal growth
  • Doing work that we enjoy and have the talents to perform
  • Routinely feeling valued, appreciated, and having a deep belief that the work we do matters
  • Having strong bonds with other people on the team, especially with our supervisors
  • It all comes down to love

A few observations.

#1 — This is good common sense management and leadership.

“We lead by being human,” said Paul Hawken (quoted in Encouraging the Heart by Kouzes and Posner). And the fact that so many who work are not engaged at work, there must be a lot of inhuman management and leadership going on.

#2 – But, it is tough to feel engaged when you feel like your job might disappear pretty quickly.

Being human does not help much when the push for consolidation amidst takeovers and mergers threatens so many jobs.

For one example, recently we learned that Staples is taking over Office Depot. If you read the accounts carefully, you learned this – a lot of jobs will be lost. Or, imagine a good manager keeping his/her employees engaged… at Radio Shack.

So, the most caring human, successfully motivating manager may have his/her hands full with people who fear that they are about to see their job disappear.

#3 – And, what about those of us who are “self-employed.” How do we feel and stay engaged?

This is not a small number of American workers. If you add together all of the people who work “on their own” in one way or another, it is a hefty percentage.

(The latest estimate – somewhere between 8% and 20+%. It is not an easy number to know for certain. With adjunct faculty, businesses with no employees, the rise of Uber”-like jobs…, well it is a tough number to nail down. Read this for a little insight into the difficulty: Where Are All the Self-Employed Workers? by Justin Fox).

For the self-employed, independent contractors, adjunct faculty members out there, engagement has to come pretty much fully from within.   (Or, in other words, this whole area is called “employee engagement,” not “self-employed engagement”).

But, even after these “clarifications,” these are terrific common-sense reminders.

For those in jobs that are likely to be secure, working among and with others, making enough money to feel “ok” about money, employee engagement does boil down to love.


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