We often hear about organizations seeking to engage employees, but they treat engagement as a machine that can be turned on and it starts working. We can only engage with employees if we design a relevant employee experience and this cannot happen without an engaging culture. I propose you take a PCR test and find out how engaging your culture is.
In the last two years, the word engagement has become even more popular within the people management context. It was already a big topic before the pandemic, but as we moved into a remote or hybrid setup, engaging with employees became a priority for many companies. Believe it or not, also for those who did not care about it before. Sadly, many of these organizations use the word engagement in the wrong context. Instead of looking into creative ways to connect and motivate employees, they only came up with solutions to make employees stay, and most of those did not last very long, hence the so-called great resignation. Raphael Crawford-Marks, Founder and CEO of Bonusly, says it very clearly:
“The drivers of engagement have remained remarkably steady over the years. They’re determined by the degree to which a person’s work fills them with a sense of purpose, progress, and belonging. Yet almost every other condition of the modern workforce has changed.” Link
If we want to achieve engagement we need to focus on the means to it and that is the culture. We cannot engage with employees if we do not have an engaging culture. I identify three mistakes when approaching culture and engagement in organizations:
- The first big mistake is that very often engagement is understood as a goal when it is actually a way to measure the employee experience. We cannot produce engagement, but if we create a relevant employee experience, the result will be that we have engaged employees. I tell you more in my previous article about messing around with your EX.
- The second mistake is that most organizations do not listen to employees. They work on initiatives that they think will be effective to make employees more engaged without actually asking for their opinion. Even small companies have a variety of people in their workforce, so what works for some does not mean it works for all. It is important to give employees a voice and make them part of the process.
- The third mistake is that we often do not know what are the elements of our culture. We fail to identify topics that are key to designing an outstanding employee experience, so we do not know what to assess in order to know how engaged our employees are.
For this, I recommend a PCR test. Do not worry, I promise that you will not have to stick a swab in your employees’ noses. To run a PCR test in your organization we will be looking at three elements that drive engagement in organizations:
As humans, we constantly look for a reason to be. This is what makes us get up in the mornings and get to work (after at least one cup of coffee, of course). When we do things without a purpose sooner or later we get bored or go insane, or both. To understand how purpose is a key element of our culture we can look at three aspects:
Mission & Vision: Vision is where we stand as a business and what we want to achieve. The mission is our reason to be and the effect that we produce. While the mission focuses on the day-to-day, the vision is what we are seeing in the future. To put it in other words, we could say that vision is the destination and mission is the journey. I really love how Blueleadz describes it.
Impact: If meaning is the purpose (the why), impact is the result (the what). This goes beyond business performance. This is how we see our work or our organization changing the world. In his book Engagement Magic, Tracy M. Maylett states that effort + impact = engagement, but effort — impact = burnout. Impact at the end is how we make sense of our work.
A workplace — physical or virtual — is more than a place where you perform tasks and leave. Most of us spend a third of our day working, so it should be motivating and exciting, like a community. Several studies show that happier employees are more productive, so it is a win-win. But how do we create a community at work? There are several aspects to keep in mind:
Diversity & Inclusion: People should be able to be themselves at work just like in any other environment. There are many resources that describe the benefits of a diverse workforce also for the business. Organizations have grown a lot in terms of LGBTIQ+ rights, gender equality, race/ethnicity/religious discrimination, and others, but there is still a long way to go until being able to express yourself at work is not an issue anymore.
Social relationships: An engaged workforce also fosters relationships. As humans, we are always seeking connections and when performing tasks we are more efficient when we work with people that we connect with. When we establish these connections, it is easier to share experiences that lead to learning from one another.
Health: It is also important to promote healthy habits, physical and psychological. Mental health has become a hot topic since the pandemic started not because it is new, but because it became more obvious and relevant. It is important to build a community where employees feel supported and heard when they are struggling.
Rewards are not only about financial compensation. Of course, every employer should pay their employees a fair salary. But rewards can also be other things:
Flexibility: Employees should be able to enjoy flexibility not only to perform their jobs at different places, times, etc. But also to be able to balance work and personal life in a healthy way. Terms such as sabbatical, part-time employment, or workation are taboo in many organizations. The pandemic has proved that flexibility is key to engaging with employees.
Recognition & value: Again, it is not only about bonuses or perks. Many studies show that for millennials, salary is not the most important thing, and this could be extended to other generations as well. Some people have never heard words such as thank you, good job, well done, or great work, from their managers or peers. Meaning is also being recognized for what we have done.
Purpose, Community, and Rewards. Three key elements that should be the foundation of any organization’s culture. If you want to engage with employees, take the test:
- Does your organization have a clear reason to exist and how do you want to make an impact?
- Do you encourage a real community where people can be themselves and connect with others in a meaningful way?
- Do people feel valued and appreciated in your organization?