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Curiosity and engagement

The term “engagement” could be misleading, especially in the context of this chapter.

Generally thought of as an individual’s level of enthusiasm for their job, in this context, employee engagement is about one’s emotional commitment to the organisation and its goals. So then we ask:

  • How engaged are we in our current jobs?
  • How engaged are our employees in theirs?
  • How committed are they to their company and its goals?
  • What is the link between engagement and curiosity?

An image demonstrating 3 attributes of engagement Click to expand

I launched our quest to understand the issue of engagement in the workplace in my interview with Kevin Sheridan [1], a leading consultant in the field of employee engagement and author of Building a Magnetic Culture.

Sheridan cited a Gallup survey that concluded that “Dis-engaged employees and turnover cost companies over $500 billion per year.” According to Sheridan, that’s the massive amount of money companies lose in the form of employee disinterest, lost productivity, attrition, recruiting, retraining, and other costs associated with employee disengagement every year.

Citing numbers from multiple studies and surveys, Sheridan categorised employees into three buckets: actively engaged, ambivalent, or actively dis-engaged. Then he stated that those in the ambivalent bucket constitute about sixty percent of our workforce with another fifteen percent in the actively dis-engaged bucket.

These numbers mean that roughly three quarters of the U.S. workforce is either marginally engaged or completely unengaged in their jobs and the growth of their companies.

Based on this assessment, America’s workplace consists of more zombies than innovators and go-getters. Sheridan likens it to the walking dead.

In today’s world, exactly what is employee engagement, especially as the workplace continues its migration from the Baby Boomer culture to that of Gen Xers and Millennials?

Sheridan cited three simple factors:

  • Recognition
  • Career development
  • Employee relationships with supervisors

Millennials, Sheridan said, love feedback. They look for compliments regarding their work as many as twelve to fourteen times a day. Baby boomers climbed the corporate ranks in a very different time and culture. They neither expected that level of feedback in their own work nor do they feel compelled as managers to provide that feedback to their Millennial employees.

Another proponent of employee engagement I interviewed is Dr. Bob Nelson [2]. A consultant on the subject to literally hundreds of companies, he has authored twenty-nine books on the topic, including 1501 Ways to Motivate Employees and The Management Bible.

Nelson stated that the key to engagement is recognition. Echoing the same message as Sheridan, he said that employees (especially Gen Xers) look for constant recognition.

Similar to the sentiments Sheridan expressed, this practice wreaks havoc on many baby boomer managers who weren’t trained to provide that level of constant feedback.

“Search for moments of positive achievements,” Nelson advised, “even small achievements, and recognize them immediately. Tomorrow or next week is too late. You will have lost the moment. Delayed recognition could even have a negative impact.”

The author went on to share stories and anecdotes that demonstrated the bottom-line virtues of employee engagement and teaming and cited his experiences characterized by the African proverb Embutu (or Ubuntu), roughly meaning, “I am because we are.”

Discussion

Engagement costs U.S. companies more than $500 billion a year in lost productivity. If we can determine the things that help people feel passionate about what they do at work, we can improve engagement.

How can allowing employees the ability to explore and ask questions help improve empathy?

Remember to share your responses in the comments section below!


References

1. Building a Magnetic Culture Archives - Kevin Sheridan [Internet]. Kevin Sheridan. [cited 4 September 2020]. Available from: https://kevinsheridanllc.com/tag/building-a-magnetic-culture

2. Dr. Bob Nelson | Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker & Consultant [Internet]. Drbobnelson.com. [cited 4 September 2020]. Available from: https://drbobnelson.com

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Innovative Leadership: Developing Curiosity

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