Employee Engagement

Effective people engagement is an organization’s most important challenge.

Over the past couple of decades, I have asked people to describe those periods in their career when they received the most satisfaction from their work.

Most often they reported times when they were working very hard and quite successfully on a major challenge. Additionally, they were doing it with great people, and they were having a lot of fun while doing it.

In contrast, when people have described the low point of their career, it often included periods of too little responsibility, not much “real” work, little interaction with colleagues, and certainly no fun.

Let’s consider a matrix with two major variables. On the vertical axis is the Challenges Presented to Employees. On this axis, at one end there are few technical or business challenges being presented to the employees to address. At the other end, there are many technical or business challenges being presented to the employees to solve.

On the horizontal axis is the nature of People Engagement. At one end of the axis represents people who are working alone; essentially in isolation. At the other end, people are fully engaged in cross-functional collaboration.

Employee Engagement Challenges Matrix
Employee Engagement Challenges Matrix

If we consider each of the quadrants in the matrix, we can see the impacts on the organization and people.

In the lower left quadrant, we have The Damned. These people have too little to do of any importance and minimal engagement with their colleagues. These folks are likely to develop a “cancer of the attitude”. They constitute a long-term danger to the morale of the organization.

In the lower right quadrant, we have The Unaligned. While the culture of the organization may foster teamwork and cross-functional committees, there may be no overall strategic direction that is driving the employee focus, actions and most importantly, their results. These people may initiate a lot of collaborative activities, but not necessarily on any agreed set of strategic outcomes. They’re likely not working from a Strategic Plan, with a clear vision, strategic objectives, and key initiatives.

In the upper left quadrant, we have The Burdened.  These people are being presented with lots of challenges of a technical and/or business nature, but they are not organized to work within any collaborative approaches. Consequently, they are working in silos, with many demands put on them. They are likely to get burnt out. The organization is likely to achieve suboptimal results from their efforts.

In the upper right quadrant, we have The Victors. These people are working on the most important challenges, as presented by the organization’s strategic plan, strategy, or business plan. They are working in a collaborative model, which means that people from the critical functions of the organization are involved in developing needed solutions. The organization is a winner. The people also benefit from working with their colleagues. They can celebrate together and be recognized for organizational victories.

Now, not every challenge needs a team-based solution. Not every person finds greater satisfaction working with other people. Nor can it be expected that employees can work indefinitely with the intense pressures that are often imposed on organizational challenge teams.

However, if we consider the way most people describe their periods of greatest satisfaction in their careers, it most often looks like The Victors.

The question for leaders – How many Victors are we enabling?