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Are you listening? The return of Employee Engagement

23 01 2013

employee_engagement“Employee Engagement” used to be a term reserved for the hollow halls of HR departments across the land. You’d hear a client say that was their main goal, and you knew a program was doomed to fail – usually because it was code word for “I haven’t got a clue what to do with this type of social application”.  My eyes would roll, my sleeves would get rolled up, and I’d get down to work teaching them the need to rethink the requirement for innovation goals that would drive focused value and strategic change through their organization.

But that was 10 years ago – and today, as I was sitting down with the CEO of a multi-million dollar multimedia retailer, I found myself reflecting on how much has changed since those days with respects to “employee engagement”.

“Boris, I see tools like this” (referring to the Social Innovation program we outlined to her) “as table stakes for keeping today’s top employee base” she said – the first time I’ve heard a C-level executive say that with full conviction.

Bravo – for she struck the nail cleanly on the head. With social technologies increasingly being weaved into the fabric that is our personal lives – we’re getting used to being heard by the masses – and we bring that desire to be heard with us into the workplace.  As Facebook and the other mainstream social platforms get us used to being influential in a bigger world, the dichotomy of then being ignored in the workplace is increasingly causing friction.

4255321476_93d737a959Where as yesterday’s employees wanted pool tables and quirky benefits , today’s employees don’t just want to be actively engaged in the company they work for, they DEMAND it.

Smart employees want to feel a part of the world around them, want to feel they can influence and enact change, want the transparency and responsibilities that come with active engagement – and if you don’t provide that level of autonomy for them – then someone else will.

These are after all, the table stakes of keeping bright employees nowadays – question is, are you stepping up to the table?

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Innovation – do you WANT to win? Well, do you?

13 10 2010

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If you’ve never been to the annual Business Innovation Factory conference (#BIF6 on twitter), it’s really quite a trip. More of a mini-TED conference than anything specifically innovation related – it’s all about enabling people to share stories about things they’ve achieved, thought of, experienced, and so on.  The end result is that you don’t necessarily walk away with a series of bullet point “To-Do”’s like you might at other conferences – but you do end up with a simmering pot of interesting thoughts and ideas just waiting to boil over the top.

This year, two speakers said things that stuck in my head and kept me thinking. Such is the way my mind works that unfortunately I can no longer remember who they were – but I’m sure someone will eventually remind me in the comments below this post 🙂

The first of these insights was an observation that, if you have two equally matched sports teams, and one team’s members actively want to win, whilst the other team isn’t bothered – then chances are, the team that wants to win, will do so. Sounds obvious really, but it brings an interesting question to mind when you bring that concept into the business world – which, at the heart of it, has similar competitive dynamics.

If you have two equally matched companies competing against each other, the company that collectively wants to win more – will probably do so. “Desire to Win” is a competitive differentiator in effect.

With that in mind, however – how many of us actively try to instill that desire to win into our employees? How many companies actively engage in “Win Management”? You could even say that what really differentiates a successful innovator/entrepreneur from normal people is that never-ending drive to win “the game” of business.

This is even more amplified in the Innovation world where the risk of failure is ever present and embraced as a part of everyday life. It is a daily competition to beat the odds and win the game of innovation.

Pair that thought up now with another insight from that same conference. Apparently, at any one point in most organizations, only 20% of the staff are actively engaged and enjoying the job they’re doing.  I would personally argue that that number seems a little high to me – and is probably rotating too – that is, we’re not necessarily talking about the same 20% year round, as people naturally go through cycles of loving/hating/being indifferent to their work.

I would also argue that one of the reasons why people don’t get engaged in their jobs, is because their jobs (ie their companies) don’t engage them. They feel like they have no say, no ability to make an impact, no reason to want to win….

So it stands to reason that if a company really wants to win at Innovation they need to both instill a competitive desire to win in their organizations, and to tap into and maintain that desire by actively engaging their population in strategic innovation decisions.

And by “Engagement” I don’t mean just listening to your employees – I mean actually “Doing” something with their input. Business, and especially Innovation – is a team sport – and no one wants to be relegated to being the guy on the subs bench that never gets on the field.

So now you know what you have to do, you have to ask yourself – Do you want to win at Innovation? Well, do you?…








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