It is no surprise that the world’s leading companies like Google, Facebook, Adobe and many such more have only one differentiating factor that sets them apart and perhaps on the receiving end of longing looks of millions of people who dream to be a part of them someday or the grudging admiration from their competitors – their employees- hundreds and thousands of them working together to make things move and in the process creating for themselves a better life.
So what is it that these companies are doing right? What is it that they seem to have figured out that the others can’t? I can only guess since I haven’t had the good fortune of being associated with any of them. But what I think they might have really gotten right is the basic human traits and needs – the need to feel acknowledged, to feel special, to be appreciated and to be able to make a difference.
I distinctively remember my early days as a child when I would work so hard on a painting to impress my parents, not that I particularly liked painting at that time. After putting in hours altogether on that piece of paper, I would run down to them with eyes full of hope wanting nothing more than a nod of approval. And they never disappointed. They would praise me for my effort which only made me work harder for my next one. Maybe it was because, as a child, what was driving me was being able to see my parents awed or possibly it was because in my little world, drawing something better than my peers made me believe I was making a difference in my own way.
So it’s actually quite simple. Our reasons for wanting to be better might stem out from different experiences and needs but at the end of it, we all want to be better, for ourselves and for those whose opinions matter to us.
However the question now is, what exactly can be done to accommodate such needs and whose job is it? And what has employee engagement got to do with any of this?
I’ll come to these questions in a while but before we go any further than that, I would like to elaborate more on the subject of engagement and what, in my opinion, does it mean? While most companies spend millions of dollars doing surveys all across to grasp the extent of how satisfied their employees are, does employee satisfaction really amount to employee engagement. I maybe very well satisfied with my place of work because of the long vacations I get to avail, or maybe because my boss is a man/woman of pleasant demeanor, or maybe it could be simply because I have amazing colleagues. And while all of that is great to have, does it motivate me to go out and beyond what has been expected of me? Does it make me want to do something within the scope of my position that would bring greater good to my career and consequently to the organisation?
Employee engagement in my opinion is therefore more or less equivalent to employee experience that encompasses many factors – from feeding employees need to grow by paving a clear career path to making them feel as if they belong to something bigger; from supporting them in their innovative endeavours to giving them a chance to rectify their mistakes. The basic principal of reciprocity comes into play. Employees stick around when they see that they are been taken care of. Maybe it’s an idealistic picture that I’m painting here, but it’s a human tendency to return generosity with the same amount of sincerity, if not more.
In my modest seven years of education, what I have garnered is that to be able to do something greater and extraordinary, we want to be inspired. Isn’t that what we all want? We sit and wait. Wait to be inspired.
Life at work should mean something more than completing 10 work hours or fulfilling the premeditated goals. It should be more than just waiting for the day to get over or month to end to clasp a handsome amount of salary. For most part it, it’s easy to let the mundanity surface and rest as it quietly weaves its way around our lives. It’s easy and it convenient to do so as long as the money keeps coming in and the comfort of normalcy isn’t disturbed, but for how long?
The fierce need to prove our worth always stays with us until we do something that justifies as leaving a mark. And we need leaders to help us find our way out, leaders who we in our everyday lives see as managers. With growing opportunities available for smart workers, retaining top talent necessitates the need for leaders who don’t just get the work done but inspire people. Inspire devotion, a sense of loyalty and belongingness.
I’m a true believer of Pygmalion effect. If a manager is successful in creating the right kind of environment and making an employee believe that he/she can fly, then they will fly. Employee engagement if done right thus fosters a ground for inspiring people.
Maybe engagement is too abstract a term and the results not very handy, but organisations that have success with engagement have better productivity and lower attrition as proven by several surveys conducted by Gallup. So while employee engagement might not generate instant numbers, if done as a fundamental part of key success strategies and not just “check the box” activity undertaken once in a while, holds the power of bringing about significant change in companies. Because as much as we love chasing numbers, people matter. And will always matter more.