The Employee Engagement Truth: It’s Really Just Leadership Development

In the world of “Employee Engagement” a lot of time is spent defining the term. What IS Employee Engagement, who are “engaged employees”, how do we engage them, how are engaged employees better for the workplace?

These all sound like titles of top SEO articles on the subject.  With the buzz of this “hot topic” though, have we gotten away from the true meaning?  At the end of the day… who has the final responsibility to look after each individual employee?  The Manager.

HISTORY OF THE TOPIC OF EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT

kids employee engagement

While it is important to understand and define the term, I want to take a brief look back to acknowledge where this “hot topic” came from. We used to talk about “happy” employees and “employee satisfaction”.

The buzz phrase “employee satisfaction” was popular only about 5 years ago. As a millennial myself I was part of the working world already when the first notions of “employee satisfaction vs. employee engagement” and “why the latter is more important” was all the rage. Ever since that first glance into this new employee engagement revolution which was the idea of the topic has exploded in the Human Resources world as one of the sole key factors that drive an organizations work force.

This topic helped boom the dawn of a healthier work/life balance becoming part of the norm at several forward thinking companies, flexible working schedules and ping-pong tables in office buildings.

These “employee perks” are essentially necessary now for companies to stay competitive in today’s battle for top talent.

But this is all high-level; the shell of the topic. This is how we view “employee engagement” from inside the HR walls. The bigger question then has to be this:

Do offering better employee perks (flexible schedules, casual work environment, better 401k match) lead to a more engaged workforce?

Or, interestingly, have our “employee satisfaction perks” like free lunch, cupcakes on Fridays, holiday parties; only just upgraded to 2016 standards. Flexible schedules and casual work environments (in industries where appropriate) are certainly essential to remain competitive and to attract top talent AND CAN be linked to employee engagement, but are not necessarily the driver.

THE EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT DRIVER

What is then? If the more perks we offer DO NOT directly correlate to engagement, than what does? Who else is involved?

Leadership.

That’s it. All the free cupcakes, work from home days and take your puppy to work can’t fix a bad manager.

This does follow up the entire food chain, however. Unfortunately a great manager can be masked by a poor director who is not open to ideas and is constantly unavailable. A great manager and innovative director can drive a successful team but will eventually leave if their ideas are not being heard by the C-Suite.

THE FUTURE OF EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT

I’d like to propose a change in thinking when we discuss employee engagement. Let’s first ensure that our managers and front-line supervisors are engaged and are also champions of our corporate mission. Top-down transparency is the key here. Without this? HR’s employee engagement mission can not be successful. We can, however, create communication plans and leadership development training to help or C-suite communicate their message down to the front line.

That’s where the mission should start and that’s where our employee engagement priority should stay.

And as for the C-Suite? Well, if you feel like yours is the problem it’s time to find a new place to work!

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