February 2015

The theme of this month’s magazine is engagement

The theme of this month’s issue is engagement – a term wildly bandied about – but what does it mean to the people in our organisations? Is it the answer to all our problems as sometimes suggested – or simply another trend?

So what is engagement? Sarah Cook in her article on p33 says her preferred definition is “harnessing discretionary effort”, implying that employees have a choice in how they behave and whether they go out of their way to deliver ‘above and beyond’.

Choice has a part to play as clearly ‘engagement’ cannot be imposed – despite senior management teams and HR departments employing a variety of methods to ‘engage’ people it often comes down to simple human relationships.

Line managers should be the most important link in the engagement chain – let’s face it no matter how switched on, friendly and successful your CEO and organisation – if you don’t like your line manager or team leader you will not do your best. As Larry Reynolds points out in his article on leadership and management on p5, employees do a good job “not because they are inspired by some charismatic boss on the conference podium or the live video link, but because they like and trust their immediate boss and want to do a good job for her [or him].”

Lisa Sofianos in our cover feature on p55 suggests that engagement activity has become too mechanistic and that organisations should take a step back or press the pause on engagement. Our obsession with ‘doing engagement’ and losing the real or authentic involvement of workers is not necessarily the right way to do things. She argues that “real engagement needs tension to fully capture the heart and mind”, that leaders should “get out of the way of people and allow them the freedom to design their own meaningful relationship to their work”. She suggests that mature organisations empower their people to do the best they can and this is best achieved by giving workers greater autonomy.

Clearly engagement is an important area for senior managers and L&OD practitioners need to monitor levels within their organisations – communicating areas of concern to the leadership and helping to facilitate conversation between senior teams and their people. Organisations that want to be truly engaged with their people are going to have to be more transparent in their decision making in future. I suspect this might be too much of a challenge for many organisations.

Until next month – happy reading!

Debbie Carter, Editor



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