August 9, 2017

Engaging the workforce in the disruptive era

RESEARCH shows that highly engaged employees can improve business performance by up to 30 per cent and that fully engaged employees are 2.5 times more likely to exceed performance expectations than their “disengaged” colleagues.

Almost every organization realizes this, and so they try to improve their employee engagement accordingly. The question is, will the traditional employee-engagement approaches that have been around for some time work in a world that is constantly being disrupted, as is the case today?

The answer is, it will be more challenging to do so now that the business landscape has changed and Generation Y is becoming the majority workforce.

As for millennials, their expectations are shifting from security to flexibility, from benefits to opportunities, from goals and missions to aspirations, and from business units to working communities.

If we read between the lines, this is all about the emotional commitment an employee has towards the organization and its goals.

So what can human-resource professionals and line managers do to build engagement in this disruptive era? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Focus 1: Compassionate environment

We’ve all heard that people don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses. Leadership development experts Dr Brad Shuck and Maryanne Honeycutt Elliott assert that “higher levels of engagement come from employees who work for a compassionate leader – one who is authentic, [is] present, has a sense of dignity, holds others accountable, leads with integrity and shows empathy”.

In this sense, building a compassionate environment means line managers and peers being compassionate by showing their authenticity, empathy that will eventually create supportive environments in which employees feel a network of people they can trust, who understand them and can support their quest for success.

Naturally, employees will feel more open and safe to share and exchange ideas. They will contribute and grow through intuitive and open-minded communication, recognition and feedback from managers as well as their peers regarding their strengths and weaknesses. Hence the compassionate environment will encourage employees to work for accountability, rather than responsibility, which will increase the overall level of workforce productivity.

This can be done through authentically listening to others and working to leverage their strengths, as well as having a willingness to be flexible and adaptable. In other words, we need to focus outwards, not inwards, as a way of seeing beyond self.

Moreover, we need to develop the ability to give and receive helpful feedback. Listen deeply and communicate well. In fact, the vast majority of employees who receive little or no feedback are actively disengaged.

Focus 2: Passion and purpose

Passion and purpose give people a reason to work and can enable innovation to emerge along with inspiration and energetic drive to achieve things.

In many cases, when employees are ignored and not able to use their skills or be challenged, they will move on to somewhere else that offers those stimulating opportunities.

This factor often leads to employees’ personal satisfaction and fulfilment as well as ownership of their work. It will push employees’ efforts further and connect workers with their managers and peers as well as organizational needs.

To do this, BI Worldwide, an engagement agency, suggests the following.
Ask, don’t tell. Instead of giving assignments and dictating the process to team members, challenge them to find improvements and recognize them at every step in the process.

Let them lead. Turn over an existing project to your team and let them manage everything. Hold the team accountable for the budget and timelines while letting them know you’re there for support.

Recognition. Don’t wait for the traditional anniversary. Celebrate milestones early and often.
Personally, I’d like to encourage you to ask more questions about personal visions of what others’ successes look like, and assessments of why the project is motivating, which will surely bring the sense of higher purpose to your employees.

All in all, companies will naturally be disrupted if they don’t disrupt their traditional approaches to engaging the workforce now that the world is constantly disruptive.
DR SIRAYA KONGSOMPONG is the senior consultant at SEAC (formerly APMGroup) and is certified by the International Coach Federation. She can be reached at
Source: The Nation Newspaper