Employee engagement: A note from the field

Image by Dom Dada via Flickr

This week, I’m on the end of an employee engagement serial events, which I’ve collaboratively designed and facilitated with different departments. It’s one among several programs we are conducting to optimize the implementation of management-by-objective principle.

As inferred by the title I’m using, this time I’m not going to discuss about the concept of employee engagement. I just want to share few key points I’ve learn from experiences in implementing it.

So, here are the bits and pieces…

1. It’s a considerable psychological labor.
As good as it may sound, employee engagement is not as fun as most people think about. It requires plenty of your mental capacity, internally and socially.

2. Employee engagement is a planned work intervention, not just hanging-out together.
Many people think that engagement is just hanging-out or gathering. That will be catastrophically incorrect, since such assumption will make employee engagement as ineffective or even counter-productive action. Employee engagement should be well-planned, with clear expected performance indicators.

3. It’s a strategic management action, so it should be planned as a strategic process.
In many cases, employee engagement is conducted only through surveys or meetings. I think that is a bit inaccurate way to implement it. Surveys are part of analyzing the current or existing level of engagement. Meeting is one among various alternatives to enhance the engagement level. But, employee engagement is a holistic action, with work flows, objectives and relevant measures.

4. Without a clear road-map for change, employee engagement is just a waste.
Employees will engage better if they can see possibilities for positive change. Particularly, the kind of change that will bring better results for them. Without a clear prospect about the result, people will not buy the idea and not even think that it’s worth to try. They will not invest in it. Such investment will only exist if we have a road-map for change. Otherwise, why bother?


5. Observable leadership commitment is the main ingredient.
It’s about being present. Employee engagement without the presence of the top management will not encourage engagement. It may even discouraging in the long run. Without overt leadership commitment, better not to do it.

6. How to make sure that it will deliver result: Agenda setting, facilitation framework, and communication strategy.
Leadership commitment must be firmly supported by a smart agenda setting to make sure that the result is enhancing a collective vision. To deliver that agenda, good facilitators are necessary in the implementation. They also need to be equipped with an effective communication strategy, to make sure that the employee engagement activities will craft an action plan; instead of just creating emotional-dumping conversations.

7. There will always be byproducts. So, prepare a strategy to deal with them in advance.
When people engage, they will create something, and deliver something else out of expectation. We always get byproducts, which can be either constructive or counterproductive. In the context of employee engagement, it depends on how we deal with the byproduct. For example, employee engagement may lead to more openness in communication. Openness can be a bit destructive when it gets out of track. Employee engagement will increase employee expectations. Such increasing expectancies, when they are not met with relatively significant results, will turn into massive discontents. Employee engagement will encourage people to participate more often and interact closer. Without a good communication culture, these interactions may generate destructive rumor mills and cliques.

However, if we deal with all of these in smart way, it will be paid off.

So, I hope these are useful for further discussions.

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.


10 thoughts on “Employee engagement: A note from the field

    1. Start with googling it 🙂 There are actually books about it, but I’m not sure it’s popular in Indonesia. Searching about it in Google will help you to get some sort of overview, and how people like to interpret about it, even they don’t have a comprehensive understanding about it hehehe….

  1. I think the most important principle is to treat human as human, with their humanity and dignity. That means to be able to communicate as human being toward other human being; with employee, owner, colleague, client, consumer, etc. All other things are derivation from this ultimate principle. Indonesian language have good word for it: dimanusiakan dan memanusiakan.

    What do u think james?

    1. Yes, I agree, Reza. The basic principle is about human relation. When we say human relation, it’s about humanizing (memanusiakan) and being humanized (dimanusiakan).

      The only note is, and this is a cliche in Indonesian context………, how we put that principle into action beyond words. Indonesian feudalistic mainstream culture is really a hindrance for this principle to be actualize beyond words. When I say feudalistic in the previous sentence, I referred not only those who feel that they are in the ‘higher class’ and not willing to reach other from ‘lower class’. I’m also pointing to those who stick with their inferiority of ‘lower class and victims’ and choose to live in unverified prejudices and learned-helplessness.

      Such state of collective being will put the act of humanizing at scarce.

      What’s your take on this?

  2. This is an interesting point of view. For all this time, I think feudalism is always about the benefit and power of “higher” class. However, as you very well put it, it also about internalize marginalization by the so called lower class. I think you have good point here. Therefore, to create the culture of humanity, we need to attack those two ways of thinking simultaneously. This is crucial for our society. One note here, it will be a hard battle, and sometimes, we need to live in alienation from our society- and even family-, because of our position against well established feudalism. It must me a collective movement.

    1. Yes, Reza. But, alienation can also be seen as ‘freedom’ in a way. It gives you space and flexibility to be the balancing agents, instead of the advocate of either side. My professors like to put it this way: It’s not ‘either-or’, but ‘both-and’.

      Nevertheless, what you have mentioned is utterly valid. Being in this kind of ‘freedom’ is somewhat lonesome too. We live in the life paradox, indeed. We want to be free as individuals, but individuals are inevitably bound by the social setting.

    1. Give a space to address emotional feelings about the situation in a way that lead to a cognitive awareness about what are the causes of those feelings. This should be designed as the part of the meeting agenda. Basically, emotional responses or feelings are viewed as one way people response to the topic of the meeting. Therefore, it should be handled in that perspective.

Any thoughts?

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