How to Use Employee Engagement to Boost Your Business

32 thoughts on “How to Use Employee Engagement to Boost Your Business”

  1. I think the 20% is high. I suggested to the students yesterday that they should strive to be the 5% that care, 95% are there for a paycheck 9-5.
    Maybe My % is low, but I wanted them to understand that they should strive to be the top part. Find a company that will respect them and help them.
    Sadly, companies do not respect their employees until they are much higher usually or miss the good ones as they leave to other companies.
    This has historically been because of lower/middle management that were Dilbert’s boss or worse. This is changing with the younger generation of management, but now the other extreme. These new managers, do they expect everyone to be like them? Also a problem. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t. But the work force is a mixed generational one, which may lead to problems yet to be seen in bulk.

    1. Hi Keith! Great feedback! Thanks a bunch for adding further up! Interesting! I was hoping it would be much higher than your lower %; in fact, I was hoping that % may be even a bit higher than 20%, otherwise how do companies keep running the business despite the financial crisis we have been going through for the last 3 years… No need to answer that one … think I could summarise it, probably, with a single keyword: fear (Of losing the job?).

      Either way, I find it incredibly disappointing that way in the 21st century we are in we are still finding out the vast majority of the employee workforce feeling disengaged from the work they do. And to be honest it’s also I have been encouraging folks as well to realise about one of those facts of life:

      Suppose your one life is divided in three thirds; one third is already dedicated to sleep (Yes, you should be sleeping 8 hours, at least), the second third is your private / personal life which is yours and the third third is your work life, so how many folks have realised how they may have been wasting two thirds of their lives “wasted” sleeping away, which is a healthy thing though, but with that one other third at their work, which we already know is more than 8 hours anyway.

      Shouldn’t that be enough warning to wanting to change things for the better and take a stand once and for all that we should deserve better as employees working for whatever the business? I am not sure what you would think, but I am having high hopes younger generations, and the not so young ones, too!, would realise about it and do whatever may be necessary to help change it to accommodate more to their own needs vs. those of their employers. That’s why employee engagement is so critical to me, specially, when I first heard about it from Bob Buckman, yes, *the* Bob Buckman talking about inspiring a knowledge sharing culture within an organisation; that was over 10 to 12 years ago, way before social networking kicked in within the corporate environment.

      Colour me #hippie20, but wouldn’t that be what most knowledge workers should strive for in their one and only life? 😉

      Thanks much, once again, for the comments!

  2. Companies survive because 75% of them do things, the other 25% plan things and have ideas.
    Not saying the other 75% don’t but if you think about it, the natural flow of people personalities is weighted to followers/sheep, not to the leaders/ideas people.
    That is how I see it some places.
    You can work 8 hours a day and get 8 hours free, BUT, if you commute to work, the average commute is 1 hour+ in the US so there goes 2 hours of freedom.
    I don’t get more than 7 hours of sleep usually because have to get kids up early.
    So my first 1.5 hr in the morning is kids/showering etc..
    Come home, dinner, dishes, kids showers, bed time. This can be 2-3 hours.
    So that is 4-6 hours gone out of 8.
    The last 2-3 hours is spent on whatever needs the household needs, taxes/finances/bills, and side projects or….unfinished work. well in my case night time server shut downs.
    So in reality we have about 2-3 hours a day, IF we are lucky. Which usually is 1 maybe 2 nights of emptiness.

    Now if companies would understand remote/telecommuting work like IBM does, so I could work 5 hours a day or whatever I wanted, that would be a utopia.

    But few companies really embrace the telecommuting model. Trust is still a problem. Social Media or not. Figure this last part out. I have been trying for years.

    1. Ah-ha! And it looks like we are arriving at the heart of the matter: trust, from the employer / business / company to the employee. Indeed, it’s all about trust and trusting those personal relationships. But that trust is also one that walks both ways: both from the company to the employee and from the employee to the company. Somehow I feel that most of the times it’s missing in either of those ways, or both! And it shouldn’t! Whether social software gets involved or not, although it’s also true that social tools do help knowledge workers work further in improving their own social capital skills to help empower a trustworthy, collaborative environment.

      Perhaps what we need to do is to start thinking a lot less about being followers / sheep (Because if you treat people like sheep they would eventually behave like sheep!) and perhaps transition to that other much more inspiring and rewarding “leaders / ideas people”, who eventually will have a common mission: keeping getting better at what they do through innovation, collaboration and knowledge sharing.

      Isn’t it time already, *cough* 21st century *cough* that we start thinking about shifting gears here? After all current business models haven’t done much for us other than trouble, if you look into the current financial situation, so perhaps we need to start exercising some fresh thinking along the lines…

      1. If companies need new staff or “older” staff that “get it”, then why are so many people we know out of work? Banks, here, are not giving money to new ventures.
        Companies want to pay peanuts for intelligent people who can do everything.
        What makes one more or less employable today?
        As a contrarian, I found management unwilling to listen to ideas or reality way too often. Could I say it differently, sure, but there is a fear, a fear of wrong.
        What if it we do this wrong? What will happen?
        If we hire them and they mess up we look bad and we can’t say we are wrong.
        If we bring in someone from the outside, will it cost us money or will I be out with a big payoff? Does it matter anymore?
        Why do CEO’s and CIO’s that kill their companies get huge paychecks to leave and then get hired again?
        There is no logic aside from no one wants to stand up and say NO, this is not right. Worldcom? MCI? The banks? The Government? No one did anything.
        Was that the old generation? Or the new one?
        Trust indeed is hard to find.

        1. Great points, indeed! Keith! There are some theories going on out there that claim that the reason why there are so many people out of work is exactly because of Enterprise 2.0: i.e. achieve more with less (Finding experts, right info, share your knowledge, learn to do more outside of your job, etc. etc.) and in a way they may have a good point, specially thinking how that achieving more with less, cutting costs and improve efficiency are some of the main drivers behind Enterprise 2.0 and why hiring sprees are a thing of the past.

          However, I think you bring in a very good point with regards to Thinking and Trust; two major concepts that have never been encouraged in a working environment for fear of the greatness of what they could provoke. Yes, they could mess things up as well, big time, but, hey, without risk there is no gain. I think for a good amount of decades we have neglected a culture of failure, and lessons learned, to learn from those experiences and move on.

          Perhaps that’s what’s damaging our corporate environment where we are only looking for success and “bring right”, as I recently blogged on a TED Talk on being wrong (Worth while a look if you haven’t just yet…).

          Perhaps we need a complete #reboot of the system; one where we may need to go to the core basis of business, not only doing social, but living social. We did it once and for several years; why did we abandon it in the first place?

          1. Rhythm and Medley=Thinking and Trust

            NASA is a prime example of culture of failure or management not being willing to listen to others because of monetary or PR issues.

            I believe ethics are the issue. In the post Enron world where Banks that don’t need money get billions, but the businesses that needed it got none, ethics is the issue.

          2. Hi Keith! Ha! You have just described the main theme of the philosophy behind the various different links to hash tags in Twitter I mentioned on the blog post above. Yes, indeed, at the end of the end it’s all a matter of ethics, or the lack of, better said 😉 #spanishrevolution

  3. Maybe we should let others comment too 🙂
    @Monkchips said on twitter we should change the sales formula from Tiger teams to Cougar teams. A reference to a feminine approach and collaborative way to do sales.
    James has such a way with words.

    It’s not that companies treat people like sheep….they want to be. Well not every one of course, but many.

    Ever ask for volunteers in a room of adults? Do you get 100%? 90 or even 50%? Not often. THAT is what I mean. People do not want to take the 1st step.

    In order for companies to change it starts at the top AND at the bottom. The middle is the problem I guess.
    Which explains why middle management in America does not exist anymore.

    But what is one to do if they just can’t give 110% anymore? How many times do you pick yourself up and try, try again?

    This year, new branding, new slogans, new product names, new staff…but come YE, same old layoffs, reorgs and absolute confusion internally and externally.

    Change can be historic.

    Or is it better to start clean and fresh?

    Marketing had it right all this time maybe? Rebrand something to give it new life, but only IF it is also is new or different from that old one. Rebranding as an exercise with no real difference is just a waste of time.

    1. Another great follow-up, Keith, that surely confirms the main theme from the overall post and which has also shown up on the comments on treating people like sheep and have them then behave in the same way eventually. I know, it’s a habit that’s hard to break, for sure, as Euan Semple hinted quite nicely over here.

      Perhaps, indeed, we are far too afraid to think and speak up our words in a responsible and conscious manner, who knows, but then again, we can do it and so much more!

      It’s just us being human and trying to make a difference where it matters the most, why not? Isn’t that part of the aim of looking for a business model that can break through our current practices that have only created trouble over time and still going strong?

      I am not sure, but somehow I feel that in order to progress further into achieving that Employee Engagement utopia / dream, if you would want to call it that way, we would need to start thinking afresh where we would want to be…

      And, once again, it’s not new, a company who’s just about to make 100 years already hinted it in the final priceless quote from the #ibm100


  4. Right on, Luis! Preach it! 😀

    I’m still thinking about that one slide from yesterday – “There goes your tacit knowledge.” It’s all about meaning. Sometimes, I feel as if the corporate view of KM is there might be some process map or SharePoint (ugh) tool to somehow extract value from the hearts and minds of staff. Not so!

    It all begins with TRUST. Sometimes, I think my peers must think me something of a corporate socialist or something, but I really believe we should be sharing nearly EVERYTHING with each other behind the firewall. There should be simple categories for information at all levels, dictating what can be shared freely anywhere, among employees, and only higher-ups.

    Yes, we need to put the customer first. We need to provide genuine value and markedly impact his life in meaningful ways, but how are we to get our customers to get excited about what we do when the majority of our team isn’t?

    Trust. Trust people on the front lines to handle the power of information. Generously reward those who repay that trust in kind. Show anyone dishonest or selfish the door.

    The manager says, “Get there on time.”
    The leader gets there ahead of time.
    The BUILDER makes sure getting there matters.

    1. Hi Brian! Apologies that the above comment went through the spam filter and had to approve it Akismet some times is far far too effective! 🙁 Grrr Fixed now!

      RE: Corporate Socialist? I don’t think so, perhaps one of my favourite concepts, which still remains *the* most popular blog post on this blog from all time: Hippies 2.0, where trust in all personal relationships certainly is one of the main key items behind it, along with publicy, openness and transparency.

      Pretty much along the very same lines you describe above with sharing as much as you can and trust. I guess it needs to start at some point, but I agree with you that the sooner we all do, the much much better of we would all be. After all, with that philosophy do you think we would be in the kind of financial / cultural / values crisis we are immersed in?

      Hummm, I doubt it; in fact, I wouldn’t bet on it. Things would have been much different, perhaps with other problems / issues, who knows, but, at least, today’s would be a thing of the past! 🙂


      1. Thanks for sharing that post, Luis. I don’t think I’d seen it before. Excellent points, indeed.

        Hippie 2.0 has its merits, absolutely. It speaks to the concept of thinking in terms of ecosystems. Trust is established where everyone involved realizes a benefit – and not just the synthetic value hyped by the marketing department.

        The money invested by shareholders should be used to develop products/services which genuinely improve the quality of life of the customer. When the customer feels the business is sincerely interested in making his life better, he will help the business grow, resulting in maximized shareholder value. It’s an ecosystem.

        It’s funny you should bring up the hippie idea, too, as I was just talking about what it would take to create a sustainable, off-grid gearhead community somewhere well and away from any major metropolitan areas with a friend as we drove a deserted road in the high desert of central California last month. Everyone depending on everyone else, everyone helping everyone else.

        My friend said it would be odd to imagine a hippie commune based around the automobile, but he could see the potential.

        If you’re going, to San Francisco…

        1. Well, you never know! It’s one of those cities I have meant to go for a long while, indeed! Actually, Brian, while reading your comments I just couldn’t help thinking about a recent book I have read that I think would fit in over here quite nicely, when talking, specially, about the overall ecosystem concept. It’s called “A Leader’s Guide to Radical Management” by Steve Denning and it surely is a great read, if you get a chance. His concept of “Radical Management” surely hints the changes you are suggesting about wanting to changing things along these lines, involving folks from all the way to the top! Great read and very timely for this discussion as well 🙂

          1. Thanks for the book recommendation, Luis. I’ll check it out for sure. The concept of ecosystems – where everyone benefits – really speaks to me. Just need to finish Olivier’s “Social Media ROI” and the classic, “Naked Conversations,” by Scobel & Israel. (On loan from our Internal Communications guy – how about that!)

            Really enjoyed the chat today. It’s nice to know I’m not crazy beyond all the good ways. 😛

        2. Hi Brian! You are most welcome! It’s a read you will enjoy, I am sure! And it reads very nicely as well; Steve is surely a natural storyteller! 🙂

          And don’t worry you are not crazy, we *all* are! And wouldn’t have it any other way either! hehe Thanks again for the wonderful conversations today 🙂

  5. I’d also offer I completely agree with your points too, Keith. (Thanks for the space to comment, by the way. Haha.)

    Change has to come from the top and the bottom, but while upper management dictates change, they must be prepared to LIVE that change. I’m so tired of social-as-a-mandate. Why do you want me to build collaborative spaces you’ll never visit yourself?

    While we re-gear our front lines and on-boarding processes, we need to be sure we’re addressing the situation in between. Most of the middle managers moved into their roles on training in “the old ways” and can be very resistant to the touchy-feely world of empowering direct reports.

    1. Hi Brian! Thanks a bunch for taking Keith’s advice and jumping in to share your feedback! Always very insightful! Appreciated!

      Goodness!! Did this quote: “I’m so tired of social-as-a-mandate” really hit home and big time?!?! ABSOLUTELY 100% in agreement! That, to me, is another clear indication of just wanting to change things, because it looks good, not because you see a genuine need in wanting to do it to improve how you are and how you behave as a business; and that goes for all knowledge workers out there, including managers and executives.

      That’s why I am such a big advocate of the motto “Walking the talk”; *SHOW* it! No longer enough talking about it, knowing those other “gurus” who do it for you, or just lay back hoping it would go away. It’s probably a good time now to start figuring out your own comfort zone within that shifting gears and instead of preaching social, because it’s good, LIVE social, because you truly believe it will change the way you do business and take you to define the current corporate environment of the 21st century.

      Yes, change *is* hard, but, unfortunately, it’s *inevitable* and that last video I included in the blog post is a good indication of it… Time will tell … 🙂

  6. Glad you enjoyed my comment, Luis. Always a pleasure to participate in the discussion with such an innovator as yourself.

    Here’s a couple questions for you. Suppose my team is tasked with developing collaborative work spaces behind the firewall, has its own blog, forum, and document libraries (all open to enterprise-wide participation, of course), yet doesn’t seem to have “time” to make use of them. How might one demonstrate the value and drive the shift to more public conversations?

    Second, outside the office, my little online magazine has lead to a LOT of email. Any thoughts on a public-facing tool I could use to replace my email which wouldn’t intimidate new contacts? (I was thinking about a forum, setting up an auto-responder in Gmail, and having conversations there, but I’m worried that might result in dead air.)

    Thanks as always!

    1. Hi Brian! Thanks again, once more, for the kind comments and for the thoughtful feedback! Keith has got some really good advice and tips on how to provoke that change. In my own experience, from what we have done internally, I can tell you that one thing that seems to work really well is to help those folks identify “pain points”; basically, identify those issues that are slowing down their productivity; get them to write them down on a piece of paper on a single column, then draw a new one where *you* can offer alternatives / solutions, with various 2.0 flavours to show and demonstrate to them how you can help address those pain points by applying some of those different 2.0 solutions / alternatives.

      From there onwards show them, educate them on what that change may imply and how to go about it, and also share with them some of the personal benefits on how they could make it happen for themselves and what they would gain by doing that, i.e. hopefully fixing and addressing those pain points. And from there onwards, lots of perseverance, stubbornness and resilience with lots of education and hand-holding initially and plenty of patience 😉

      W.r.t. the other query, Keith is, once again, offering some very good solutions. I think I would try to perhaps figure out whether I would need to make use of that group collaborative space or not. So I would start probably with Wikimatrix and notice also on the top left of the screen some other options and see what would be the best option to progress further… Have a look and see what you think… Happy to offer other alternatives, if you would need to 🙂

      Let us know! Thanks!!

      1. Luis, in the US you just described the Ben Franklin close for sales people.
        You take 2 sides, have the person write on each side what is good/and and they will then make a decision. a powerful closing, albeit a bit, um, old school perhaps but in this case logical.

        1. @Keith, probably, but then again it’s what’s worked wonders for us in the last 3 years of driving internal adoption at IBM; it helps people understand and come to terms with the fact that there are always those (pain) points they can identify themselves, no-one better than you!, and then help them view how they could fix it themselves. It’s like a bit of hand-holding, instead of telling them to go and do it; it follows a much more natural approach towards learning while on the job, i.e. learning over your shoulders, peer to peer learning, social learning, eventually reaching both targets: addressing those pain points, encourage people to use social tools 🙂

          We didn’t even think of that Franklin connection 😀

  7. Brian,
    Time is of the essence. You can’t buy it, you can only make it easier for others to work and save them time. But it takes repetition, training(small amount) and oh, repetition.
    Habits form after 30 days of usage. BUT you can’t make someone use something that is archaic, difficult or cumbersome or no offense to The Cloud, down.
    Sometimes walking people through your day in the life(How I usually demo products or apps) is the best example. Video, audio/podcasts or lunch n learn or the old, look over my shoulder works too.
    Your email solution is simple. Mail rules and similar such applications. Define who answers which emails or which ones don’t get answered at all.
    Set up automatic replies so new emails know to post in your blog/wiki site which is one way to deal with it.
    Set up links for your magazine so every article gets a forum page or wiki site(maybe under a sub heading in major topic areas?)
    In short, as Luis pointed out in the IBM video he referenced to me, thinking is what is important.
    But I know from experience, thinking about your problem is always harder to see clearly than thinking about someone else’s problem.

    1. Haha. No offense to The Cloud. 😉

      My email situation is a bit more complex than that, but I appreciate the ideas, Keith. The majority of the people I track down I do so through A) forums and B) email. I get push back from the forum admins because I am not recruiting for a possible competitor, and it might be viewed as a bit disingenuous to send someone an email (first contact) only to not respond in kind.

      Still. Something worth considering. Maybe I can roll it out for my personal email account and see how it goes. So many ideas… so little time.

      1. Yes the eye for an eye of social contracts.
        If someone emails you, you should email in reply.
        Automated responses are one way.
        Another way is called interns 🙂 and outsourced office support.

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