Continuing further along with another blog post from the series of articles on “Reflections from 2011“, I thought I would go ahead and spend a few minutes today musing about what I still think was one of the main key terms, within the Social Enterprise space, that most of us got exposed to, and talked extensively through a good number of rather interesting and enlightening articles and publications throughout last year and that I feel would continue to come along rather strongly during the course of 2012 as well. Probably, because we are not done with it yet, but, most possibly, because we need to shift gears with it. Why? Well, so far, we haven’t done good enough with it, despite the various claims we may have been exposed to over the course of time, and we are running out of time and pretty quick! Of course, I’m talking about Employee Engagement or, in other words, how do you keep your employees motivated to excel at what they already do, driven by their distinctive passions, purpose and meaning?
The reality is that Employee Engagement still remains a critical success factor for most employers and large corporations, and small businesses, too!, and we are running out of time because we are not doing a very good job at it at all. Quite the opposite. Yes, I know, wehave seen, or been exposed, to a good number of reallygoodarticles that talkextensively about how to keep your employees, i.e. your knowledge workers, motivated to do their best and keep growing further in their career aspirations, contributions, purpose, meaning, etc. etc. without losing track of the business revenues, which is what most corporations care about nowadays anyway (Always have, I am afraid!). Yet, we keep failing drastically, and rather miserably, in achieving that long term goal of keeping employees motivated and all of that due to a very simple reason that most organisations seem to keep ignoring or neglecting big time: we consistently don’t ask them what they really want!
Indeed, that simple! Employee Engagement has always been a concept driven top down by corporations and their executives, who keep wondering how do they keep their employees motivated to go the extra mile without asking for much in return. What can they do to entice their knowledge workers to keep thriving and shining at what they already do well, which eventually is going to provide more business revenue, better customer satisfaction by delighting their clients and, hopefully, happier employees, without having to spend perhaps too much cash on rewards, incentives or whatever else so that it doesn’t go out of proportion. See? That’s exactly the problem! That kind of mentality where we are inspiring our knowledge workforce to competeagainst each other for those rewards, for those incentives, as individuals, as treasure hunters, where you try to do your outmost just to stay on top, annihilating everyone else around you. It’s part of that legacy corporate culture we have inherited from the 20th century and which we don’t seem to be too keen on getting rid of it, probably because it perhaps keeps nurturing the main corporate system that feeds it rather nicely backwards as well: money, greed and power.
I mean, can you imagine an entire workforce earning just as much as the CEO and his / her corporate executives? Or having that same amount of power at the same time as a group, network, community, where traditional management is no longer the one ruling but instead a new kind of leadership would be required? Obviously, not! Which corporation could sustain that? The reality though is that mentality is what’s keeping us away from “Designing a beautiful business“, as my good friend, Esko Kilpi, put together on a superb blog post just recently that I strongly encourage you all to go ahead and read further on what it would entail to reach that mantra of a beautiful business that he envisions amazingly accurate, and very nicely done!, and not too far away from today’s corporate environment. At least, for some businesses out there.
Another interesting read to provoke that shift away from that industrial model of recognising your employees with that individual competitive environment of cash, and whatever other tangible incentives, and move into a much more accurate, relevant, pertinent, purposeful and perhaps very much needed networked, interconnected and community-driven approach would be the excellent article “The Philosophy of Motivation” put together by Greg Satell where you will be able to find precious little golden nuggets like this one very relevant to the whole conversation of how to approach it when wanting to keep your knowledge workers motivated:
“[...] treating people with dignity means treating them as ends in themselves, rather than as simply means. [...] motivation is much more about intrinsic rewards than extrinsic rewards. Motivated people join an organization in good faith and expect to find meaning in their work, instead they get an incentive program. No wonder they get discouraged“
Greg’s description of the shift from the industrial age to the passion economy is just brilliant, too!, with magical quotes like this one: “In the industrial age, value was created by harnessing energy. In the passion economy, value is created through superior design“. Like I said, a highly recommended read to help differentiate what’s at stake over here.
The challenge is out there for everyone though. As we move into another exciting and rather thrilling new year, it would be the perfect time to shift gears and start thinking about “Employee Engagement” not just from the top down in any and every organisation, but also from the bottom up! The good thing is that we are not alone! We don’t have to reinvent the wheel and wonder how we are going to get things started and make that shift happen. We are not starting from scratch and it would be silly to fool ourselves, if we believe it’s a whole lot harder than what it actually is. As a good starting point, we need to lower down the center of gravity and the decision power, starting by trusting more our very own employees, so that we get to find out what they really think; continuing further by discovering together different ways to keep rockstar employees happy, because whether we like it or not, they are the major driving force that gets everyone else excited wanting to jump into the bandwagon by following their true passion, which is the work they are already doing and excelling at!
I strongly believe that, at the end of the day, we would ALL be rather amazed and very pleasantly surprised to find out from those employees that, for them, it’s not all about the money, or the salary raises or whatever other cash, hard incentives. It’s a whole lot more than just that! We are talking about people in here, and as people do business with other people, there is a great chance that it will all be about fostering the right working environment where people are, AND feel, treated like people. Just what they are. An end in themselves, as Greg put it beautifully in an earlier article I mentioned above.
It’s all about finding ways to motivate your knowledge workforce to finally help you understand fully that this is all way beyond just thinking that money will do. Don’t take me wrong, money is good! It pays your bills and gives you an opportunity to enjoy a fulfilling life, but there is more to it. In fact, a whole lot more to it. And, like I said, we won’t need to start from scratch. In fact, there has been plenty of rather fascinating and thought-provoking research in this area, like Jack Wiley, executive director of the Kenexa High Performance Institute, recently wrote over at “Give employees what they really want” and where he talks about R.E.S.P.E.C.T., i.e. the main topics to cover, as an organisation, to keep your employees motivated and bring in Employee Engagement into the 21st century modus operandi of the new workplace, away from the industrial era:
Security of employment
Education and career growth
Please do go ahead and read further on Jack’s insights for each and everyone of those items to see what lies ahead. Certainly, a good challenge for all of us, as I have mentioned above. It’s not going to be easy either, for sure. But no-one said it would be. It’s actually what’s at stake for all of us who would want to design those beautiful businesses that Esko mentioned over in his blog post. That’s what makes it the most exciting of challenges. It’s one we can all contribute and make it happen eventually. It’s our way out to define the workplace of the future and there is probably not a better way of doing it than reverting Employee Engagement into what really matters, as Esko concludes beautifully with this gem:
“The years with the Internet have proven that we are capable of working together competitively/cooperatively, building social communities that many would some time ago have dismissed as impossible dreams. Thus we don’t yet have a good idea of what cannot be done by connected people working together in new ways. Changes in existing organizations and the evolution of new ones will have characteristics in common. Just as natural systems like the human body are not vertical hierarchies with each part superior to another in ascending linear order, organizations of the future will not be structured that way. This is not to say that all present industrial organizations are doomed but our models to describe the world around us are. We need a new vocabulary beyond the models of industrial production and separatist, mechanistic concepts of a corporation“
Yes, indeed, we probably need a new vocabulary, but I suspect that along with that new vocabulary we would also need a new way of thinking, a new way of working where employees, through their trusted networks and social communities own the corporation, just as much as the latter owns them. That’s when engagement will take a new meaning. The one we have all been waiting and anticipating for all along. For all of us, not just for the few we already know who they are…
Are you ready to own your beautiful business? If the answer is “Yes!”, you better start working your magic to help make employee engagement no longer a myth, but today’s corporate reality. We very much need it. And fast!
Changing the World One Idea at a Time
Tue, Sep 10th 2013 4:43a Luis Suarez You know that summer is almost gone when September comes along in full force, work peaks up again a notch or two, and conference month kicks in. Pretty much like March, after the rather long winter months. I am not sure why, but it’s really interesting to see how both March and September themselves seem to be the busiest times of the year, at least, this year, in terms of public speaking and attending various different conference events over the course of a short couple of weeks. So as [read] Keywords: notes
The Dangers of Mediocrity and The Power of the Dip
Thu, Sep 5th 2013 5:42a Luis Suarez One of the things that I have always enjoyed, and quite a bit, from the Social Web, and the different social networking tools out there, and the main reason why I keep coming back for more, is that no matter how much time may have just gone by, the good content, the golden gems, those pieces of reflection and insight that you know you are going to bump into over time they keep resurfacing time and time again, making the mere presence on social networking tools just worth it on its own. Earlier o [read] Keywords: collaboration
Giving Up Control in the Era of Open Business
Tue, Sep 3rd 2013 3:02p Luis Suarez It’s rather interesting to ponder how, over the course of years, us, consumers, have been asking traditional industries to move on with the times and enter the 21st century (of the Digital Era), so that they could embrace and apply different business models, than those they have been operating under over the course of last few decades, to make themselves profitable again, in order to meet, at the same time, their potential new reality: a smarter, interconnected, mobile, always-on consumer [read] Keywords: facebook
Situational Leadership in the Era of Open Business
Fri, Aug 30th 2013 4:02a Luis Suarez One of the things that I got to appreciate quite a bit during the course of the summer vacation I took earlier on this month was having the opportunity for doing plenty of reflective thinking and one of the recurring themes that came up over and over again was that one of Leadership and how the role leadership itself is being transformed, in a now more complex than ever (business) world, thanks to the significant impact of digital technologies. Those of you who have been reading this blog for [read] Keywords: blogging
The Innovation of Loneliness
Wed, Aug 28th 2013 4:02a Luis Suarez One of the really interesting things in the world of social networking is how every now and then you bump into a specific resource, an online video clip, a blog post, a mainstream news article, a dissertation or whatever else, that is just so thought-provoking and rather mind-boggling in challenging your own notion, experiences, know-how, skills and expertise on the topic of social networks that surely makes you think about your own experiences twice, to the point where it makes you pause and th [read] Keywords: networking
Should CEOs Blog?
Tue, Aug 27th 2013 5:02a Luis Suarez Earlier on this month, my good friend, Euan Semple wrote a short blog post on the topic of how tough it is to put together that initial first blog entry, if you are new to blogging, and even more so if you are an executive. It’s just like the whole world is watching you for that first article and you just want to do things right. You certainly don’t want to look like a fool, never mind that feeling of being ridiculed by your peers if things don’t work out. You just can’t [read] Keywords: blogger
Finding Time to Reflect while on Vacation
Sat, Aug 24th 2013 1:02p Luis Suarez Once again, it’s been nearly a couple of weeks since my last blog post over here on The Perks of Being an Early Riser and I am sure at this point in time folks out there may be thinking that, once more, I have failed to keep up with restoring my social presence as I mentioned on that last article. Far from the truth, I am afraid. Over the last few days I have been doing something that I have been looking forward to for quite some time and that it’s always something that I can neve [read] Keywords: ibm
The Perks of Being an Early Riser
Tue, Aug 13th 2013 4:02a Luis Suarez I have been a remote knowledge (Web) worker for almost 10 years now (Back in November 2003, when I was still living in The Netherlands) and over the course of time, while I shifted from European based projects into worldwide ones I have been doing plenty of adjusting of work schedules to meet the demands of work and therefore become a night owl of sorts, but at the same time ensuring that work life integration is there, right from the start. It’s been an interesting journey all along and e [read] Keywords: connections
Digital Transformation – It’s Just The Beginning
Tue, Aug 6th 2013 4:09a Luis Suarez One of the interesting things that I have been exposed to over the course of time, specially, as more and more knowledge workers embark on their own journey of using social networking tools in a business context is how there seems to be this notion that we are almost done with that digital transformation. Meaning that those who have been using these social technologies for a while now feel like their work is done and dealt with in terms of that very same digital transformation. To them, it feels [read] Keywords: enterprise