What’s better than engagement?

Employee engagement is held up as a key element to corporate success. It is important that employees have a sense of connection with the organization. But what about connecting the organization to the employee? What about the rapidly changing work environment, is employee engagement still enough? Or is it time to focus on something more?

While the general concept of engagement is a wonderful thing, unfortunately it is often regarded in a mechanical view of the corporate world: The Do loop of sacrifice & compensation. In this context the very word “engagement” takes on its mechanical connotation. A clutch is something you engage. Employee engagement seeks to make sure that each individual gear is meshed smoothly with the corporate cogs.

With a line drawn between work and life there is no real balance to be found between the two. How can an employee be engaged at work when they are forced to leave life at the door? What does it matter when what matters doesn’t matter?

And the situation degrades further when economic conditions worsen. The work side gets jammed with more pressure to Do, and employees are just thankful to have the problem and not the less fortunate alternative. Too often employees are thought to be engaged in their work when all they are is married to their job.

It’s important that employees are personally connected with the organization. But if people aren’t able to fully be who they are in their work, the most that engagement will ever produce is mediocrity. Real success is not found in connecting the individual to the organization.

The key is in making sure that within the organization
each individual remains connected to who they are.

So, what goes beyond employee engagement?

It’s not just about engagement; it’s about expression & enrichment: The Be-Do loop. Is an individual able to work in a way that builds upon and expresses who they are? Are individuals enriched by their work, do they become more from what they do?

“The highest reward for a man’s toil is not what he gets out of it
but what he becomes by it.”
  John Ruskin

This isn’t a management issue. It’s not an HR issue. This is a leadership issue, and that means it’s the responsibility of each individual who comprises the organization. In the network of relationships and interactions each person must be wholly regarded and respected for who they are, not just perceived as the piece of them that shows up for work.

What are your suggestions? How do we go beyond engagement to create a more fulfilling workplace? Are you engaged in your work? Is your work an expression of who you are? Are you enriched by your work? Are you there to make a living or to make a difference? How does an organization create a corporate culture that recognizes each individual for their intrinsic worth and not just their value to the corporation? What’s better than employee engagement?

Photo courtesy of AESThetic Photography

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Do

DO  The world pivots on that little world.  Days are structured around to-do lists, lives lived with dreams of what we want to do.  We are defined, categorized and ranked by what we do.  You meet someone new and one of the first questions you will ask each other is, “So, what do you do?”  Ads remind us to “Just Do It.”

To make our doing more efficient the Industrial Age grouped individuals into organizations, each individual plugged into their part of the machine.  The engine that drives the machine is the premise that the individual will sacrifice their time and energy for the organization.  In turn the organization will compensate the individual.  Ever wonder why it’s called compensation?

Do Loop

Fueling the engine is the concept that the more an individual sacrifices for the organization, the more they will be compensated. And from the other side, the more the organization compensates the individual, the more they will sacrifice. Trouble is,

Employees are people.
And so are organizations.

What also gets sacrificed in this model is each person’s full individuality. So much of the stuff of life just doesn’t fit into the organizational machine.  We draw lines at the beginning and end of the day, and at the end of the week, with ‘life’ on this side and ‘work’ on the other.  And employees put up pictures at work to remind them of their real lives.

Unless your goal is to be the biggest gear in the corporate machine, dreams of what you really want to be doing, of what really matters to you, get thrown off to the side into a bucket labeled “Someday.”  Someday I’ll take up that hobby.  Someday I’ll spend more time with my family.  Someday I’ll take that trip.

Isn’t there a better way?

What if there was no such thing as work-life balance,
but rather work was just part of the richness of life? 

Isn’t there some way we can get done what needs to be done without dehumanizing people?  I believe there is.  Beginning with the next post we will begin exploring the Be-Do model, another way to look at how the world works.