What kind of conditions need to exist to create employee engagement?

There has been a lot written in recent years about employee engagement, and if you have read any of the research by Gallup (et al) you will be pretty much convinced of the tangible organisational value of having an engaged workforce.

With all the descriptions, explanations and rationale about what creates engagement, it seems to me we have somehow overlooked two key elements about the subject. The emphasis seems to have been placed on what organisations can do to engage employees when, a bit like personal motivation, the focus should perhaps be more on working out a) what kind of conditions need to exist for individuals to feel engaged, and b) where does the engine that might drive employee engagement the most actually sit in an organisation?

Answering those questions

About the same time that David Macleod and Nita Clarke were writing their report into Employee Engagement, we were conducting our own desktop research on the subject, reviewing hundreds of academic papers and research reports, some going back as far as the 1970’s. We were trying to make sense of an organising framework that would help us understand what others had discovered were key elements in a meta-model of engagement.

We then set about testing our ideas with clients and came to the conclusion for our first question that four fundamental conditions need to exist in the workplace for individuals to begin to feel a sense of engagement with their company and colleagues. These conditions can be described as pillars holding up the various, and sometimes very different, employee engagement strategies that organisations employ to achieve that desired goal.

Four pillars

We concluded that the four pillars are:

Trust, Emotional connection, Climate, Ownership

Of these, Trust seems intuitively to be the most natural and fundamental to the whole endeavour and Ownership probably one of the most difficult to create.

The other feature we discovered in answer to our second question was that the team is the engine most likely to drive individual feelings of personal engagement over and above what the organisation as a whole does to foster engagement. These four pillars and source of personal engagement all of a sudden started to help us to better understand what is going on psychologically and emotionally for individuals that would enable them to report themselves as engaged (or not). In my next post I’ll delve into these two factors in a bit more detail and explore how we found them to operate. If you want to know more about our work into employee engagement then do get in touch.

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