John was sitting with his feet up on his desk, leaning back comfortably filing his nails when Sharon confronted him. “What on earth are you doing? We have a meeting in the conference room in 10 minutes and I still don’t have the slide deck from you!” John barely looked up and replied, “I’m not engaged. You have not engaged me. I just read where 75% of people don’t quit their job, they quit their boss, so I quit you.” And he got up and walked out the door.
Employee Engagement Is A Super Serious Issue
Here is my proof. Search the term “employee engagement”. I got “about” 55,900,000 results in (0.35 seconds). I can just see Google giving itself a high five. Google is very engaged.
Oh! and then there is Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, that tells me the following: “Employee Engagement is a property of the relationship between an organization and its employees.” And further explains that “an ‘engaged employee’ is one who is fully absorbed by and (emphasis my own) enthusiastic about their work and so takes positive action to further the organization’s reputation and interests.” But that is not the best part…right next to the definition is this photo and caption.
“According to legend, an engaged janitorial employee at NASA, when asked what he was doing, is said to have replied “I’m helping to put a man on the Moon”.
John Is Not An Engaged Astronaut Helper
OK first of all, that’s a legend? And second, John in the aforementioned nail filing, feet up on desk episode would say, “I am helping my manager who is responsible for my engagement, further her career by putting words on slides that she will read to the people in the meeting.” Not exactly a moon shot. And why, may I ask, does it need to be? Since when has engaging employees become the role of managers? This is very dangerous territory indeed.
The Most Important Employee Engagement Question
Here’s what I think. Employee engagement is absolute genius for getting involvement, commitment and productivity but it is a fools errand if you make it a program without first answering two vital questions.
Who is ultimately responsible for ensuring employees are engaged? Who is ultimately responsible for ensuring YOU are engaged?
If you hear the CEO, VPs, Directors and Managers say “we all are”… run. Run fast, run far. “We all are” is another term for HR. Unless…and this is a big unless…each of those people say “We all are” followed by, “And here is how I specifically, in my role, with my direct reports, demonstrate my total personal accountability for ensuring my employees are engaged and therefore involved, committed and productive.”
Employee Engagement Starts With Mindset. Period.
Employee engagement does not work unless there is a 100 / 0 mindset per individual for engagement. Because I have 100% accountability for my engagement does not mean you don’t as my boss. And, it is not “part, some, share”… because no one wants the part, some or share that isn’t working.
Employee engagement is not a zero sum game as in, I have some and you have some accountability for it. It’s like my motivation or my willingness to hold under performers accountable. It starts in my mindset and up to 100% is available to ME to act on as I choose. I might get a best friend at work and I might not. If I choose not to, I still might be one of the most engaged employees you have ever met.
Explain Yourself – Why Do People Quit You?
Sharon is asked to explain John’s sudden departure. “I can’t,” she tells her boss. “One day he was here churning out the reports and presentations I asked him to and the next day he’s not. He just up and left.” Her boss asked for more insight, “Was it a family emergency?” Sharon explained she wasn’t sure if he had a family and that the last time she really talked to him was to let him know she was not interested in a new presentation format called Prezi that he felt was more engaging to audiences than PowerPoint. And the time before that she had to ask him to stop putting his tennis shoes under his desk after changing into them at lunch for his walking workout. Someone complained about the smell. (Which was actually an old sandwich left in a cubicle desk drawer by another one of Sharon’s employees who left.) Come to think of it that employee left the day Sharon told her “Honestly, I don’t know why we churn out this report or where it even goes, but you had better have it done on time and done correctly.”
You get the picture. Sharon’s boss did too.
Here’s my point. It takes you, not two, YOU to engage. If you coach, give feedback, provide opportunities to develop, respect yourself, ask for and listen to ideas, give eye contact without distraction, be available, focus on what you are at work to do according to the vision and core values, stop hogging all the fun projects, make sure you and those around you are clear about their role, be interested and interesting, sit with new people at the lunch table, confront the jerks who are bullies, and really appreciate a job well done by your self and those around you, you are engaged. And, you do not have to rely on any person to do a single one of these things. The problem in large part is that we are lacking examples of engagement.
So……wait for it…… BE the engagement you want to see in the world.
Epilogue: John went on to the next job looking for engagement in all the wrong places until he happened into one of my Accountability Experience classes provided by a fabulous trainer. (Honest, I can send you the email message I got from him.) He’s not the same person and he loves his job. I don’t know what happened to Sharon.
Linda Galindo is an engaged provider of accountability keynotes, consulting, books, team building, executive coaching and all things wise about accountability and how it creates employee engagement. You can reach her at 435-940-1615 or [email protected]