It is hard to keep track of all the different definitions of employee engagement. David MacLeod’s government appointed task force identified more than 50 perfectly good definitions. So how can you expect to create employee engagement when you can’t even get a standard, universally accepted definition? This very diffusion makes it almost impossible to come up with a singular solution that appeals to everyone.
That is why I was so struck by the pithy answer that Ellen Kullman, the CEO of du Pont, apparently gave during an interview when asked what she looks for in an employee. She gave a single word answer which I am sure you will agree takes a lot of beating: “presence.” (Source: ‘That Used to be Us’: Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum, Page 100.)
Having colleagues who, years ago, joked about “people who had left the company but were still on the payroll”, this struck an immediate chord. If, however, you find it too cryptic, her expansion is clear. “We want every employee to be in the room … the rote jobs today are gone – they are done by machines. Now you have to have people who can think and interact and collaborate.” You cannot think or interact or collaborate effectively if you are not 100% focused.
But that’s not all! If the rote jobs are done by machines, this means that it is only your people who give you your competitive edge. This means that it is in your own interests to look after them better. So why not do this by making them co-owners of the business? Not only does that ensure a common purpose and greater organisational and strategic integrity, but it also recognises and values their investment. It will certainly secure their presence more than anything else you may be attempting!
Now you have not only a better definition of employee engagement, but the added bonus of how to deliver it!