There has been a lot of things being asked about engagement and involvement as well as issues around employee motivation in my various LinkedIn groups, with many of the posts proposing some pretty complicated stuff. For some people, the process of engagement is not a simple one in that there are lots of process steps and details to attend to and all that.

Sometimes, or maybe that should be “often”, a consultant or company will develop a specific process and flow to how the situation works based on their personal experiences. I think the motivation for this tendency to increase the detail and embellish the model is to have something that is recognized and rewarded by the learning community as unique, as well as something that can be sold to prospects. So, simple things tend to become more complicated and complex.

For me, I guess that would be my Square Wheels illustration tools and our team building games built around those cartoons as well as our team building games such as Lost Dutchman. Yeah, I have built those things to support organizational improvement initiatives and they are things we sell. One has to make a living somehow… And the products do tend to aggregate complexity and details.

At the same time, though, I recognize that there are a LOT of tools and approaches that work to impact people and performance. And it is often the simple and elegant that have the most impact. Keeping it simple keeps it useful and bombproof.

If you look out at the world, you will see really bad statistics about engagement and morale and individual motivation and wonder about what the problems really are. But is engagement really that difficult? I think that most people are engagable and that this is not rocket science.

I’ve been playing with Dis-Un-Empowerment for a dozen years — it is basically the idea of working and asking people what things get in their way (generate a list of things that are roadblocks or that are un-empowering) and then working with that list to better understand the issues (as well as the individual beliefs and concerns) and then working with individuals (coaching) and teams to help manage them. It is really pretty simple when done as a facilitated process — Yelling and Telling will generate completely unsatisfactory results. (I discuss in detail in PMC Newsletter Four)

Our model for understanding and dealing with roadblocks to performance improvement

Dis-Un-Engagement is a similar concept. We can look at what workplace things are causing people to be un-engaged and simply work to remove them. The issues and factors are usually pretty clear and survey after survey gives you lists of the most common things that people say need to be done.

  • If people report that management does not seem to listen to them, what would your solution be?
  • If people report that they do not know what is happening in the company and that no one keeps them informed, what might be done?
  • If people say that the poor performers seem to not get any attention and that the bad performance is not corrected, might we come up with an action plan to deal with that perception?

Engage-Ability is a simple little framework about how engage-able ARE people in the workplace. And the answer is REALLY – they ARE really engage-able if we work at it. But we tend to make things so hard.

Consider the new employee and this simple factor: 85% of employee morale sharply decreases after their first 6 months on the job.
–Sirota Survey Intelligence, June 2006

That does not take a lot of analysis or conceptualistic cogitation. We DO things to people that generates “regression to the mean” and the new, enthusiastic employee is brought down to the average of everyone else. And a LOT of those people just do not seem to care, anymore…

For most employees, the Pin will eventually hit the Balloon.

According to a November analysis of its database of 5,700 companies representing 5,000,000 employees, Aon Hewitt reported that engagement levels indicate the workforce is by and large indifferent to organizational success or failure. That should concern us. A November report from SHRM showed that employees were only moderately engaged at work, with an average score of 3.6 on a five-point scale. And according to Corporate Executive Board’s Human Resources Practice, only one in 10 workers were putting in high levels of discretionary effort in third quarter 2011.

My take on things is that workers are making educated and calculated decisions about their workplace and how they are treated. They are trying to be like everyone else, in many cases. They are looking to see if the management cares for them and values their efforts.

But managements are somewhat unhooked as to the realities of these issues and can be blind to some simple things that they could do differently. I think this statistic tells a lot, based on the results of 19,700 interviews completed by the Saratoga Institute:

  • Employers who think their people leave for more money: 89%
  • Employees who actually do leave for more money: 12%

People ARE engage-able. People can get more involved and committed to accomplishing things. People DO like to work in teams, when risks are minimal and the potential (personal and team) rewards are good. That does NOT mean money compensation, but it does mean that the intrinsic motivators are present.

And Trust is the Residue of Promises Fulfilled.

Making improvements will happen on an individual basis and be connected to the interface of supervisors and workers. Managers need to ask more (based on a lot of data) and tell less.

According to an article by Kenneth Kovach in Employment Relations Today, when employees were asked what they valued most about their jobs in 1946, 1981 and again in 1995, the top three things they reported remained the same:

  1. Interesting work
  2. Full appreciation for the work they’ve done
  3. A feeling of being “in” on things

And from the WorkUSA 2000 survey of 7,500 workers conducted by Watson Wyatt Worldwide, reported in T&D 3/2000, the 7 Key Factors that drive employee commitment:

  • Trust in Senior Leadership
  • Chance to use their skills
  • Job Security
  • Competitive Compensation
  • Quality of Product/Services
  • Absence of Work-Related Stress
  • Honesty & Integrity of Company’s business conduct

This ain’t rocket science, folks. It is basically about treating people well, giving them respect, providing training and fair compensation for their efforts and doing what we say we will do as organizational leaders. People ARE engage-able!

What we need are more of the management team willing to take the time to ask and listen and involve. Caterpillars can fly, if they would just lighten up!

You can see some of our tools for managing and leading and involving and engaging at our website by clicking on the image below.

Square Wheels are simply great tools

For the FUN of It!

<a rel="author" href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/114758253812293832123">Scott on Google+<a>Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com