Last month I attended the latest Engage for Success (E4S) event entitled, Transformational Engagement.  It was generously hosted by Stryker UK Ltd who began the day by sharing a history of their journey towards greater employee engagement which, until last year, was characterised by a more transactional approach.  But last year Stryker began a determined drive to a more transformational model, and it’s beginning to reap the benefits.

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Of those firms attending the day – from medium-sized to very large – about 70% declared their engagement activities to be largely transactional at present.  In fact, the CIPD estimates that of organisations that operate employee engagement programmes around 75% are indeed transactional. In other words, such programmes are generally associated with a survey and action plans that arise from the results. Correspondingly, most communication around engagement is limited to survey results and the associated actions.

On the day, E4S reminded us of this more contemporary description of employee engagement, defined by Professor David Guest:

 ‘A workplace approach designed to ensure that employees are committed to their organisation’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organisational success and able at the same time to enhance their own sense of wellbeing.’

So, it’s all about people of course – but it’s about culture too.  So if we accept the double whammy on offer here – success (in their terms) for individuals and the organisation as a whole – what gets in the way?  E4S offered several viewpoints, but those that seemed to resonate most with this event’s audience were:

  • Leader behaviours don’t model the VALUES
  • Command and control – it’s easier!
  • Micro-managing – it’s stifling and drains everyone’s energy

Our event concluded with a valuable group discussion around these questions:

  • Keeping engagement action planning fresh and engaging for the tenured group?
  • How do you make engagement a living thing and not just a once a year event and ensure employees remember what has happened?
  • How do we move to more transformational activities and what do they look like?
  • How do our leaders affect the engagement of the company? How do we maximise this impact?

The contributions were broad and substantial, but once again leaders – more specifically managers – were highlighted as carrying a great deal of potential for delivering transformational engagement and a positive change for many of their colleagues.  So, how can senior leadership teams help their managers realise this potential?

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