Wednesday, 11 September 2019

The draining effect of ‘empty engagement'

We all know authenticity matters. To us as individuals, to our teams, to our organisations. So why do some organisations persist in tinkering with efforts to engage employees rather than really committing to it?  

Study after study highlights the importance of doing what we say we will. Of demonstrating integrity in our work and behaviour. This rather basic concept was last expressed in an ornate way by this year’s Edelman Trust Barometer, which sign-posted the importance of authenticity in a society wracked by ‘fake news’.

But it is hardly rocket science, is it? The thought that we might actually connect with and have greater confidence in someone who is genuine, has nothing to hide and makes real attempts to connect and communicate with us as individuals. I hardly think we need a multi-page research report to articulate this human truth.

Yet I still hear stories of organisations who approach engagement as a concept they feel they should act upon, without understanding the culture required to sustain it. This means any attempts are undermined from the start and can only be cosmetic: ‘empty engagement’ (let’s call it that), rather than a way of working that benefits everyone.

I once sat on a panel discussing what makes an engaging workplace. One of my colleagues cut through all the noise on the topic with this simple statement:

“If you’re going to change, you’ve got mean it”.

That, I think, is the fundamental point. 

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