Fresh Perspective on Employee Engagement

Employee Engagement is a hot topic right now. It is, however, possibly an even trickier one than most of us realise. That’s because we all have a different definition of what it actually is.

Engagement 25438632_sIn their 2009 report “Engaging for Success: Enhancing Performance Through Employee Engagement” commissioned by the UK government, David MacLeod and Nita Clarke admitted that, “There is no one agreed definition of employee engagement – during the course of this review we have come across more than 50 definitions.” As they point out, this makes it a difficult subject. How can we improve employee engagement if we cannot even agree what it is?

Perhaps we are over-complicating things.

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I'm back!

If you are a regular reader of my blog you may be wondering about the recent inactivity. My sincere apologies. My 'silence' was entirely due to the fact that I had taken down my website whilst I have been working on revamping and modifying it. (You can  see some of the results in the new look of this blog.)

I am happy to report that normal transmission will be resumed shortly. In the meantime, however, I invite you to visit my revised website and let me know what you think. Apart from making the presentation cleaner and easier to read, I have also simplified and clarified the content by distilling and re-framing my message around my 'Every Individual Matters' organisational culture model.  This builds on all I was doing previously, but I hope it makes it easier to understand and eliminates any confusion you might have been feeling. 

I look forward to receiving your comments and feedback.

Bay


People as Assets

Assets - Gold bars 16003502_sA Google search on “people assets” yielded 664 million results! That is very nearly two thirds of a billion. Mind-boggling! (As is the fact that these results were yielded in 0.36 seconds, less than half a second!) Clearly it is a topic that a lot of people think about and even talk about: I would be a very wealthy man if I had received a pound every time I heard the expression “People are our greatest asset.”

Despite this, the very first page seems to challenge this. Three of the first five results are either questioning or denying the statement. The fifth result actually links to a December 2011 article in the august Harvard Business Review titled “People are not your greatest asset.” Hopefully your response to that is the same as mine: “Then try running your organisation without people!”

Moving beyond the headline (and a first paragraph that claims people can actually be liabilities,) the authors acknowledge the importance of people. They go on to claim that an organisation’s greatest asset is actually “how you empower people.” This makes the headline seem little more than an attention grabber. And while it may be a good one, and the article’s points sound, it can still be harmful.

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Here and Wow!

The other day I had an epiphany!  I was watching a Matthieu Ricard TED Talk on “The Habits of Happiness” and was struck by his equating happiness with well-being. I suddenly realised that happiness is not an elusive emotional sense but actually a situation of satisfaction.  I liked that idea because it made happiness somehow less fleeting and transient.

Unflickering flame 7713397_sRicard claims “authentic happiness can only come from the long-term cultivation of wisdom, altruism and compassion.” (My emphasis) Reflecting on this brought back a childhood memory. As a young boy of about eight I heard my parents complain that the carpet was dirty. So I decided that I would surprise them and clean it. Thus the next day when they went off to work, I managed to roll it up, take it outside and wash it.  

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Beating the Crisis of Ethics

Flavour of the past week has undoubtedly be the question of ethics. Editorial comments have abounded and most, if not all, the newsletters I have received have been on the subject. Of course this follows all the news about FIFA and “Septic Blatter,” as one newspaper cleverly identified its infamous head.

GoalsThese events seem to have evoked universal concern about a decline in moral standards and ethics, with many commentators evoking the fines being levied on the banks and financial services industry to support the argument. Yet you have to wonder how deep this concern really flows. After all, reports about corruption in FIFA have been circulating for years and been corroborated by journalistic investigations and exposés going back several years.

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How to Increase Your Return on Training (ROT)

Increasing returns 36682674_sIn my last blog, I made a strong case for the need to increase the Return on Training (ROT) and why it is important for your organisation that you do so. Now I want to give you a recipe that will deliver this and provide a framework for a significant, and sustainable, transformation of your performance.

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Time to Increase the ROT

“It is always the first thing to be cut.” How often have you heard that? HR professionals seem to universally agree that, whenever times are tough or things get difficult, training is the first casualty in a war to reduce costs. Yet management would not be so willing to eliminate training if they knew it provided a worthwhile return on investment.

So why don’t they know?

It is time for the HR profession to stop passively accepting this management mind set as “a fact of life”; consider the unthinkable and ask whether this might actually be their fault.  If nothing else, moving beyond the “unfeeling management doesn’t understand” rationalisation for things should be a catalyst for progress. After all, if management holds the power and is focused exclusively on the bottom line, the way to prevent reflex training cuts is to convince them such cuts negatively impact their results.  

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Leadership and Popularity

Talent wars 000015991993XSmall“Leadership isn’t a popularity contest.” That was the headline of a newsletter I received this week. The opening paragraph went a little further. It stated, “Leadership isn’t a popularity contest … it’s about doing the RIGHT thing rather than the popular thing.”

What do you think – would you agree?

As I reflected on it, I came to the conclusion that the writer’s argument was contradictory and flawed.   

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How to Unlock Innovation

Cracking innovation iStock_000000136484MediumAre you feeling pressured by the need to innovate? It seems that no matter where we turn today, we are being bombarded by the demand to innovate more. On one hand this may seem highly ironic, when the pace of change is such that many of us are silently screaming for things to slow down so we can catch up. Yet in a way it is hardly surprising because change has been happening so fast that our systems have become obsolete and so it is their very inadequacies and shortcomings that are powering a treadmill that demands more change.

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Don’t let prejudice stifle innovation!

“You don’t achieve by yourself.” Wow! That statement by Ashley Banjo certainly struck a chord. (Sorry!) It simplified, and so brought a whole new light, to something I have said myself.

Ashley BanjoIf, like me, you have no idea of who Ashley Banjo is, let me share my enlightenment. He is the leader of the dance group, “Diversity” who were the 2009 winners of “Britain’s Got Talent.” I encountered Ashley earlier this week when he was a key “conversationalist” at a conference on people, innovation and conversation. I had seen his name on the promotional material and, quite frankly, had simply discounted him as someone to appeal to the younger members of the audience and/or to give the day more diversity. (Sorry again; I don’t seem to be able to avoid the puns today!) I certainly didn’t expect much from his session.

What a mistake! Out of a group of several high-calibre people with awe inspiring lifetime achievements, acclaim and recognition, his insights were the most inspiring of the day.

He described how he, at the age of nineteen, had been persuaded, against his own “better judgment”, to enter the contest. Accordingly he had approached the whole experience as a competition against themselves, aiming simply “to be the best they could possibly be.” This was perhaps just as well, because they soon found they were up against Susan Boyle, and really thought (along with half the country) that they had no chance of winning. Consequently it was a real surprise when Diversity were announced the winners.

But the story doesn’t end there. Six years later Diversity is still going strong. They have repeated their prize of appearing at the Royal Command Performance three times, and here is Ashley, still only 26 years old, but regularly addressing large business audiences. And inspiring them as he talks about messing up (failure) being an inevitable part of success. How many of us have dropped a dance partner in front of the Prime Minister and elite guests at 10 Downing Street?

Ashley boldly states his ambition to keep choreographing and dancing for another 20 years and to “leave a legacy.” That makes him no different to any other self-respecting business executive. And Ashley uses that vision to shape the future. He doesn’t plan in detail, but he ensures everything the group does fits with that long term vision and that "his people" are comfortable with what they are doing. This allows them to travel internationally while still practising 6 hours every day, as well as doing other things, like the TV shows “Got to Dance” and “Ashley Banjo’s Secret Street Crew.”

This last programme arose from Ashley’s conviction that “anyone can dance” and that it is only people’s own beliefs that stop them. He took people – including wheel chair athletes – and proved that they could, simply by helping overcome these beliefs and the ensuing self-doubt.

That is why, for me the statement, “Dream; Believe; Achieve” as a summary of his philosophy was the most profound, and inspiring, takeaway of the day. Truly an impressive young man. (I wish I had been as articulate, aware and self-confident when I was 26!)

But more than just an inspiring conversation, there were deep lessons here about prejudice with several examples of why it needs to be overcome.

  1. If I hadn’t let go my prejudices and listened to what Ashley had to say, I would never have learned what I did.
  2. If Ashley hadn’t listened to others and overcome his prejudice about “Britain’s Got Talent” being just a formulaic popularity contest, he would never have achieved a fraction of the things he has.
  3. If anybody can dance, then how many other prejudices prevent us fulfilling our potential?

So beware prejudice governing you and your actions. Even more importantly, ensure prejudice is not stifling your organisation. Make sure all your people have a clear vision of what you are trying to achieve and that they listen and help one another “to be the best they can be.” After all, isn’t that what personal fulfilment really is? And that is the best guarantee of organisational success.   

 

Bay Jordan

Bay is the founder and director of Zealise, a company created to help larger small to large business organisations to properly value their people and thereby inspire them to optimise their self-worth and so engage them that they transform organisational performance and bottom-line results. Bay is also the author of several books, including “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” and “The 7 Deadly Toxins of Employee Engagement.”


Do not lose the personal touch!

They say moving house is one of the most stressful experiences of life, apart from birth, death and marriage. I can certainly vouch for that having just been through the experience after seventeen years in the same home. But there were definitely some experiences that were better than others.

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