Eko Consulting Ltd will share our latest thinking in our monthly blog. We will cover matters of topical and practical interest to those interested in developing themselves and their organisations.

Employee Engagement - a recurring decimal point of strategic thinking!

The value of an engaged workforce for any organisation is stratospheric if handled in the right manner. Nevertheless the history of employee engagement in many large organisations is a chequered one . Too often large credibility gaps are opened by organisational leaders who over promise and under deliver on employee engagement. Akin tother concepts such as organisational culture, employee engagements suffers from having to many and often contradictory definitions. Employee engagement in this context refers to the ‘attitudes and behaviours’ that engender optimal job performance that is in keeping with the organisational mission. For an excellent example of how cultural change can facilitate transformational employee engagement look no further than Ricardo Semler and what he did to tranform Semco in Brazil. Perhaps the most startling thing about Mr Semler’s approach was his willingness to democratize the processes of decision making and give power to staff at all 3 levels of his organisation.

The questions of power and influence still assail organisations as we struggle with the productive as well as the destructive potential of social media as a shaper of organisational culture and as a consequence employee engagement. Questions such as how come employee engagement is much vaunted by so difficult to evidence in most organisations? How come ‘coal-face’operatives rarely feel that senior management have the measure of what matters for them?

There are no easy answers to the challenges of improving employee engagement however the McLeod Report of 2008 highlights 4 key elements essential to addressing the challenges.

1. Leaders with a strong strategic narrative.

There is no more compelling engaged of employees commitment than a clearly articulated narrative about the purpose, ambitions and imperatives any organisation faces. The ability of leaders to be truthful and authentic is crucial to enabling employeses to understand their own individual roles in achieving the organisational vision.

2. Engaging managers

The saying that employes join organisations but leave managers captures the importance of having well supported purposeful management cadre.

They are the ones most able to direct and support individual effort towards stated goals on an everyday basis indeed that is what they are paid to do.

So attending to the developmental needs of management at all levels within an organisational is a strategic imperative. Unfortunately the anecdotal as well as survey evidence would suggest more attention and thus resources is directed at the blunt end (board facing) rather than the sharp end (customer facing) of most organisations.

3. Strong Employee voice

How much autonomy is allowed to customer facing employees is a critical indicator of how an organisation values it’s workforce and trusts them to deliver brand purpose to the customer. Additionally involving staff in strategy formulation and other aspects of organisational life such as job design, salary setting and talent identification/incentivisation schemes are worthwhile undertakings for clued up organisations.

4. Organisational integrity

Meaning what is said and doing the right thing is no mean feat for any organisation in the current economic cycle. Too often employees are faced with bearing the brunt of the shortcomings of organisational leadership with attendant consequences for the customers. Employees have to trust what their leaders/ managers say. When there is a significant credibility gap the employees become disengaged and underperform.

The key message from all the aforementioned is that organisations have to constantly find ways of improving employee engagement and must see this as a strategic imperative with the benefit of giving them competitive advantage. These 4 elements can be used to form the basis of a framework for engaging staff and should be in the forefront of managerial/ leadership thinking in all matters relating to their staff.


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