Thursday, 3 May 2012

Engagement in what?

Writing for The Guardian, this article by Ivan Robertson discusses the importance of employee engagement in difficult economic times. It's the second half of the article that really got my attention, in which he talks about calibrating engagement strategy to achieve particular results.

So many people talk about employee engagement as an end in itself. Thinking of it in that way has some value (better than not doing it), but it is simplistic and vague. Just like PR, if you 'do employee engagement' for its own sake, you'll be lucky to see much ROI.

Employe engagement becomes really powerful when it is used like any other communications practice, to achieve strategic organisational goals.  As Ivan points out (in more academic terms than I) the practice of engagement has a lot of levers it can pull on and an experienced strategist knows which areas to work on to achieve a particular result.

What this means (apart from being generally good news) is that a company should be reviewing its engagement strategy as often as it reviews its strategic goals. In the article Ivan gives the example of 'getting people to support and help each other' as something engagement can help to achieve. But even if the goal is the rather colder 'increase operating margin by 5%', the engagement practitioner has some levers they can pull to make it happen.

My number one piece of advice for anyone about to embark on some employee engagement work and wanting to get the most out of it, is to ask, 'Engagement in what?'.