Trying to find a common understanding of the concept of employee engagement has become almost as elusive as trying to define leadership. As Dilbert’s boss (above) confirms, “engagement” has evolved into the latest tool in the “manage by numbers” toolbox. Dilys Robinson and Sue Hayday provided a succinct definition of employee engagement in their similarly titled 2003 article: employee engagement is a cross-section of “organisational-facing aspects of commitment, organisational citizenship behaviour (OCB) and motivation.”
In his most recent Talent Management magazine article “Moving Employees From ‘Have to’ to ‘Want to'”, Dr. Aubrey Daniels makes an even clearer assertion regarding employee engagement…and how leaders ultimately influence it:
Engagement is not determined by what you do; it is determined by what happens to you when you do it. Employee engagement is a leadership problem, period. You cannot improve engagement by having a one-day motivational training program or an engaging mission statement or vision. You can only improve it by changing how people are treated on an hour to hour basis.
Daniels’ assertion echoes my sentiment in an article I wrote last year about the transactional style of leadership. Transactional leaders specialize in the “you have to do this…” brand of leadership, and their followers clearly understand that compliance to the leaders edict is essential to job longevity. I also agree with Daniels’ assessment that participative leadership demonstrates the leader’s commitment to giving a voice to their followers:
Engagement requires policies, executive decisions and management behaviors that are focused on helping employees be successful. Respect their brains. Make them a vital part of determining how things are done, how problems are solved.
Ultimately, leadership is the ability to get things done through other people. Successful employee engagement can ensure that those within the enterprise are motivated and committed to achieve the organization’s goals…and subsequently, their own.