Employee engagement is not something I would usually be thinking about on a drive in the country.
Then we visited the beautiful Wolgan Valley west of Sydney and historical Newnes.
Although Newnes is no longer the bustling town it once was – not a town at all now, really – there’s a sign on the road that says:
‘Newnes – Everything money can’t buy’
It was that sign that inspired me to write this post.
When someone works for you, you exchange your money for their labour. That’s the basic economics of labour.
There’s nothing about that transaction that imposes a duty on your employee to feel engaged, excited or enthusiastic about their work.
They bring their skills, training and experience to work to produce goods or services you sell for profit. That’s the part of the employee engagement equation money can buy.
Doing things that increase employee engagement can certainly cost money, but engagement itself usually can’t be bought.
People want to feel the work they do is making a difference.
Making a difference means different things to different people – and this is where many attempts at employee engagement have run off the rails. Answers to the question ‘How do you know your work is making a difference?’ will include answers as diverse as these:
“I know my company always acts ethically”
“The work we do here helps society”
“I have opportunities to contribute to the direction of the organisation”
“I’m learning new skills that will help my career and that I can pass on to others”
“My work matters”
Employee engagement is much more than an annual survey or a new workshop. Employee engagement requires managers to find out what money can’t buy for each and every person on their team. What can you do to employ their heart and not just their head and hands?
Surveys and workshops, while valuable, are also generic by nature because they don’t tap into individual engagement ‘drivers’.
There are many engagement factors to consider. Each person has a unique combination of things that money can’t buy.
A valuable starting point in any employee engagement exercise is to do a serious analysis of individual employee expectations.
There are many tools available to give you this information. Beyond colourful graphics, look for the detailed narrative in these reports. That’s where you’ll find the details you need to help you to increase employee engagement – by addressing what’s important to each person. Then you can start applying your employee engagement strategies.
Updated post – originally published in August 2016.