In our society when people become engaged they make a public announcement of their commitment to one another. Hopefully, prior to that time, they have come to know one another’s strengths, weaknesses, values, and plans for the future. Assuming they stay together during the engagement (probationary period) they begin what has the potential to be a very wonderful or very painful time together. Many factors may influence their future together―changing needs, unexpected circumstances, etc. However, certainly one of the most important is how committed both are to the relationship.
Employee engagement is much the same. Hopefully, both the employer and the employee have fully vetted one another (conducted behavioral-based interviews, assessed for skills and job fit, checked background, references, etc.) as well as openly and honestly discussed needs, values, and plans for the future. Even if a good fit is determined, the relationship requires effort and commitment for both parties to mutually benefit.
According to Bob Kelleher, the founder of the Employee Engagement Group, when both parties are engaged they should demonstrate the following: accountability, authority, clarity of roles, decisiveness, direction, open communication, performance, productivity, respect, selflessness, transparency, trust, and vision. To be truly engaged, focused, and motivated the following is also demonstrated: accessibility, agility, appreciation, balance, celebration, collaboration, drive, empowerment, flexibility, fun, pride, recognition, sense of purpose, and visibility.
So when employer and employee start out so motivated, what happens to derail the relationship? For one, people get busy and don’t always feel they have time to exhibit these ideal behaviors. Sometimes we take for granted the relationship or don’t want to exert the necessary energy. Additionally, some people are cynical or mistrusting by nature. They assume the worst of people and may create a self- fulfilling prophecy.
Disengagement generally falls into 1 of 2 categories: aptitude-based engagement or attitude-based engagement. Aptitude-based engagement usually happens when an employee’s skills are lacking. This may happen when the vetting process was flawed or when someone is promoted beyond their competency level. Symptoms include: increased stress, increase in quality or productivity issues, delays in deliverables or reluctance to embrace a new assignment.
Warning signs of attitude-based disengagement may include unwillingness to go “above and beyond,” lack of new ideas or approaches, issues with customers or co-workers, lack of energy or excitement about the job or attendance issues.
To identify and resolve disengagement it is important to recognize it and measure it. In order to determine if it is attitude- or aptitude-based, it is helpful to ask yourself some questions. For example: Is there a disconnect between the expectations of the employer and employee? Does the manager demonstrate respect for the employee and understand his/her intrinsic motivations? Has there been a recent change in engagement that could be impacted by personal issues? Is the employee new to the position?
Varying levels of fear of control and fear of abandonment are common is most relationships―both personal and business. Does the employee feel that they are being micro-managed? Does he/she fear that their job is in jeopardy?
Investing in engagement requires time and energy from both parties, but can result in a lasting, mutually beneficial relationship.
We have a simple, inexpensive workforce engagement survey that will help you understand your current state. Contact us if you would like more information.
Linda Winlock is the owner and President of Personnel Profiling Inc (PersonnelProfiling.com). Established in 1987, Personnel Profiling Inc. provides organizational development, employment assessments and human resource services to companies throughout the nation. Linda has over 25 years of experience working with all types of industries and companies of varying sizes including Trane Heating and Air, Atria Senior Living, Hillerich & Bradsby Co., and many others. Her experience includes many years of Executive Coaching, Interviewing, Team Building and Training. Linda’s formal education includes a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Louisville with a concentration in counseling psychology. Linda and members of her team will be ongoing contributors to the Academy Blog.
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