Staff engagement – how much is it worth?

The hot topics seem to be around leadership and staff engagement – how one impacts the other and what makes for a good leader and what helps bring about strong engagement for and by the team?

I have been pondering some ideas around these topics this morning and so many questions came to mind so I thought I would scribble some down and ask for some input from around the globe – great minds and all that 🙂

Firstly, in my opinion, there is no way these two subjects are not intimately entwined. Without good, strong, healthy and encouraging leadership we can never achieve the highest level of staff engagement. Your leader is your “Go to”, or at least should be, they are your mentor, confidante, cheer squad and guidance counsellor … but what if they are not?

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What if any or all of the following scenarios are playing out? You are uncomfortable being honest with your leader for fear of discrimination or blowback? You have tried to approach your leader and they are too busy, never available, not willing to listen, have favourites and you are not one of them or a myriad of other scenarios. Now I am not having a go at leaders here, please don’t get me wrong on that score. Leaders have a thousand things they are responsible for – to the team, to their leader, to the business. Or what if they are simply basking in their own awesomeness? ha ha ha

Just a little bit of humour to lighten the load. And absolutely, 100%, I feel there should be humour if you want true staff engagement. Everybody needs to feel happy and have a laugh at times, life is very tiring if it’s always serious – even at work.

So, how can we achieve the highest level of staff engagement if at this core level, the engagement is not there?

Staff engagement

Then I turned to the ideas I have heard around staff engagement. Overwhelmingly I have read that outings, drinks after work, birthday cakes don’t bring it. They are a nice complimentary addition but they are not what drives engagement at its centre.

So what does? It seems to be a consensus that it is more around psychological safety, empowerment, training, progression, recognition and being heard. Seems fairly simple when you think about it but, the more articles you read, not so simple to achieve.

Being the individuals that we are, different things will resonate with each of us. Some will enjoy the camaraderie of having drinks after work, for the introvert a quiet place to have lunch may be important, for another the opportunity to shadow someone in a different role to learn and progress may be the driving factor, others will love the whole tennis table and bean bags idea that is popular in some workplaces.

The only constant is that we each have our own needs, wants, passions and triggers for happiness in the workplace – some may be common, others not so much. One thing for sure, a company cannot be all things to all people. After all, we all dance to the beat of a different drum.

Now I’m sure at some stage or another we have all filled out surveys asking what would contribute to engagement. Have we been honest? Maybe … maybe not. Did we have time to really think about it or did we just fill it in to get it over and done with? Or, worse still, did we just delete it?

Being human

Being human, if we are feeling frustrated, we will look for someone to turn to and chat. If we do not feel comfortable to go to our leader, it will undoubtedly be a colleague. This may open the door to them talking about their frustrations or worries and concerns. Another colleague may join in and so the story goes – we all know it. And if there is no alternative, we are all usually powerless to it in some shape or form. So any ideas here?

This morning I had a thought – a simple thought and perhaps not the answer but if we don’t start throwing ideas and thoughts around, then how do we find the solution? So here it is and I would love your thoughts …

What if, in your area, you had a Health & Wellbeing Officer? Someone dedicated to being the inbetween person? Someone you could go to if you felt you were struggling? If you felt you needed training or were being held back and feeling frustrated?

If you were feeling uncomfortable with your leader? If you had noticed bullying or discrimination or anything else that was leaving you disturbed? If you simply wanted to bounce ideas off someone or make a suggestion for a group activity? A confidante. A “go to” person who ensured they allocated time once a month with each and every staff member for a check in – a health check – a catch up – a coffee.

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Imagine the insights this person could give the leadership team into how to make their teams happy and more productive – engaged! Of course, all discussions would be confidential – no names. What a safety net for the team! And what an asset for the leaders to gain insights into the very truths they seek but are usually not party to.

Engagement is very important

And it goes without saying that this would have to be a highly ethical, confidential and trusted individual or else the team would not open up to them and engagement would not improve. It also depends upon the size of the business and the size of the team. But, for a larger business where there is obvious disconnect, I think the right person could have a powerful impact.

And yes I know, it’s an added expense to the budget. Can a business afford to pay someone full time to be a Health & Wellbeing Officer? Can the business afford to give each staff member a 30 or 60 minute window once a month to just shoot the breeze with them? Would it help with staff morale? Retention? Engagement? It’s just a thought and I would love your input.

…. and someone to talk to.

(c) Dianne Traynor 21 March 2019