Liberate Your Company Through Employee Engagement

33 thoughts on “Liberate Your Company Through Employee Engagement”

  1. GREAT post, Luis. Love how in-depth it is and thanks so much for the pingbacks. I think engagement does currently exist as there are many employees who DO put in the discretionary effort. However, what doesn’t exist is transparency, authenticity and communication between the business and employees. And that’s how employee engagement is evolving and changing as business realize that the more they communicate / engage with employees the more that the business itself becomes more transformed and, in effect, more productive. Elizabeth @socialworkplace

    1. Hi Elizabeth! Thanks a lot for dropping by and for sharing that great feedback! You are most welcome on the pingbacks, I thought they would be helpful for other folks to tap into the tremendous piece of work you have done over the course of months gathering lots of great insights on where employee engagement should be heading. It’s the least I could do!

      I agree with you that there is some employee engagement going on out there, like I mentioned on the post, around 30% of it, but, in my opinion, it’s not enough at this stage! If only 3 out of 10 employees are not engaged actively at work, there is a huge problem that needs to tackled in there, and surely agree with you, right on the money!, that openness and transparency when communicating is not only really important, but critical and essential. Yet, again, it doesn’t happen too often, or often enough.

      The most worrying bit though is not that huge % of disengaged knowledge workers, but that whopping 14% of *actively* disengaged employees, whose only whole mission when at work is to diminish the efforts, motivation, engagement, effort and participation from everyone else. If only we could “get rid of” that piece we would be making huge progress towards realising that dream we now call employee engagement.

      Keep up the superb piece of work, Elizabeth, and thanks a lot, once again, for dropping by! 🙂

  2. Excellent post and video, Luis. It seems once you are breaking through the barrier (which is mostly in the mind), the environment will adopt and follow. How to best accomplish this breakthrough? Isaac talks about the monkey, not taking the monkey and instead passing it back and letting the employee come up with a solution. Great starting point, but it needs to be acknowledged, be persistent, so that it doesn’t get blocked on the way back up through the organization. I think that’s where social comes in as the key enabler. Open up enough streams, so that solutions are more visible, can be vetted by more people, and move up the chain. Then employees are recognized for their work and true engagement kicks in. My 2c.

    1. Hi Joachim, thanks for dropping by and for the continued feedback commentary throughout the blog. It’s always greatly appreciated, my friend! I surely agree with your comment about how key it is breaking through the barrier and I have always thought that a combination of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators would probably be the key here. Having the opportunity of being treated as a human being, a hard working networked professional, which is what we are all hired as in the first place, surely has got pay-offs: lots more autonomy, respect, empathy, trust, motivation, responsibility, co-ownership, etc. etc. come to mind, but again those are the easy ones in this context, since you can get them from wherever you would want to. The hardest one, the one that’s been there for a while, but never delivering, and where we may need to break the barrier is when looking for that balance with extrinsic motivators. I have yet to see the first knowledge worker from *my* network who is not highly motivated and engaged because they have hit that balance. There are out there, not in the majority, but a good living proof that balance is key to make it work… The funny thing is that a few decades ago that balance was a given and somewhere along the way we lost track of it. We need to bring it up, if we would want to survive in the 21st century with all of those talent wars that are starting to flourish big time all over the place!

      Thanks again for the feedback!

        1. Hi Joachim! Thanks much for bringing McKinsey’s report to our attention! Whoaahhh! So timely, indeed! I am still currently digesting it all, since there is plenty out there for everyone, but just leaped forward to the section and chart you mentioned above I just couldn’t help smiling away on something that it appears is grabbing more and more traction by the minute with those Talent Wars and how having that talent on the right job is no longer enough. It’s all about how long you can retain it before they move on altogether into better things, more suitable to them and their needs. We are about to enter quite an interesting time witnessing how businesses would manage to keep that rather scarce pool of talent, and all before their more mature and senior knowledge workers move on into retirement!

          Indeed, fascinating! Let the talent wars begin!! 🙂

        2. Interesting find, Joachim. Confirms a lot of what we know already. I find Marcia Conner’s book (The New Social Learning) sets the arguments much better, I think.

          The chart in the abstract is unclear – does it make any more sense in the full report?

          1. Hi Jack, yes, there is plenty more! Let’s stick to ‘Matching Talent to Roles’: “By studying content added by a candidate on a professional networking site [..] a potential employer can create a detailed picture of a prospective candidate. [..] The widespread distribution of such services and automated analytics can enable “passive job-searching” (i.e., the ability to identify attractive candidates, even when candidates aren’t actively job hunting). Talent Wars!! (as Luis would say).

            But it doesn’t stop there. “Internal social networks can provide similar insights.” The report cites connect.BASF as an example, Eli Lilly is doing something similar and I’ve launched a “Request for Information” tool in the past. Talent is surfacing within the organization, people will have opportunities to move around (based on their talents, formal or informal) thus fixed organizational structures could become less relevant (no point in keeping employees in boxes).

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts (and a tremendous number of interesting links) Luis.

    In trying to undertand your perspective I would say this:

    Many executives, company owners, HR managers think about “employee engagement” as “how do we keep our people happy enough to keep us profitable?”

    Employees, however think thoughts more along the lines of “I would love to grow, reach my potential, feel respected, make a difference and feel really happy at work, all while earning a good living to take care of my family.”

    Calling the deep personal fulfillment of thousands of individuals “employee engagement” can trivialize it and is very much a term framed from Management’s perspective.

    The best “employee engagement” is in companies where the leaders truly respect and care about employees and, therefore, create empowering environments.

    1. Hi Ephraim! Thanks much for noticing this blog post and for dropping by sharing some wonderful feedback comments in there! Greatly appreciated!! Glad you enjoyed the links, too! I have been accumulating them for a long while and I’m glad they finally found their way out! 🙂

      I think you are right on the money when you think of Employee Engagement as a term originating from the business side, from those executives and managers vs. the employees themselves. And it’s really funny when it’s something that affects both, but yet the second group, the employees don’t have much of a saying in it all, do they?

      I think your definition of engagement from the employees’ side is spot on and I do wish executives and managers would realise about that. In fact, I am starting to think that if they can’t deliver on those empowering environments where knowledge workers would feel engaged, motivated, respected, recognised, well, fairly paid and a rather long etc. etc. they should keep quiet in order not to make things worse! Like it’s happening now …

      And if they do speak up, I think it’s fair for those knowledge workers to go and ask for a bit more of that lovely “Walk the talk” sentiment, don’t you think?

      Thanks again for the wonderful feedback! Appreciated!

  4. Good stuff, as always, Luis. I think this is related to some of the things I’ve been stumbling across lately, such as my recent blog posts about our mistaken belief that the product/tool is the answer, rather than only a piece of the puzzle. Social Software will fix the problem! If only we had employee engagement, then we would be successful.

    Or that other post where someone discovered that people make improvements only when hidden from management. Maybe the problem is that management behavior doesn’t encourage improvements, regardless of their words.


    1. Hi Jack! Thanks a lot, my friend, for dropping by and for pretty much nailing it on what the main challenges for employee engagement are all about! Have been enjoying your blog posts! In fact, a couple of them have been part of the inspiration for this article as well. And I just can’t stop thinking that perhaps what we do need eventually is upping the game into provoking a transformation of Management into Leadership and within Leadership into Servant Leadership. As I have recently mentioned on this blog post I am starting to think we need more servant leaders than command and control ones, or even micro-managers.

      Or that rather thought provoking sentiment from Gary Hamel that organisations do no longer need bosses / managers. Perhaps a bit too radical, but in that case I’m wondering whether employees themselves would be qualifying themselves what employee engagement would be for them. Would we be able to come forward and get it right?

      Hummm, something tells me that Social would help us get it right. Hope when we do we are just not too late! 🙂

  5. Another brilliantly incisive Blog Post. I like both the concept of the two-way street (perhaps it’s a bit premature to start talking about highways) and those 6 Es are just wonderful. Employee engagement is easy to talk about, but talking is only the very start. With out supporting action from the employers (from top down) those engaged employees will soon start switching off. And isn’t the Dilbert crowd a prime example of dis-engaged employees. Loved the clip too. Good stuff as usual.

    1. Hi Michael, thanks much for the kind feedback comments and for the insights! I had a giggle or two when I read your comment about highways, perhaps I’m far too much ahead into the future, indeed! haha

      And loved your analogy from the Dilbert cartoons, where if someone would ask me what’s the biggest example of a disengaged employee Dilbert himself would come up on the highest ranks. The sad part? We all *love* the cartoons because in most cases they are just far too close to reality. Our day to day reality. I wonder what it would be like having a cartoon portraying the opposite set of values that Dilbert does … Would it be just as funny, witty, sharp and insightful? Hummm

  6. Hi Luis
    I have to say that if I needed to compile a library I would start with your blogs 🙂 Thanks for providing so much interesting information yet again on such a thought provoking subject. My learning curve appears to get steeper! The must look at/link to – has to be the Issac Getz video which as you quite rightly point it is very very good – and delivered in such an incredibly concise and compelling manner…not worth missing!

    For those who already work with Enterprise 2.0 technology the employee engagement figures are actually not that much of a surprise as the internal communities pretty much reflect that level of engagement in terms of regular content creation, participation and engagement. One can always quote the higher end of users – but when it comes down to the nuts and bolts of full on active users – it invariably falls around 30%. But the story here is how to turn that around and of course no amount of methods to engage employees on internal communications platforms will work if the company culture of employee engagement at large is not there in the first place.

    The question of retention is perhaps different. We live in a very fast moving society and economy where the culture of staying with the same company – however good the benefits and engagement – has moved on and is often regarded as not the way to move “up”. In a world where there are more contractors, short term and part-time contracts than ever (to cut costs) and where staying with one company more than 2 years is regarded as “really, that long?” you have to consider how worthwhile the employee feels true engagement is? What does engagement mean to a short term or part-time employee? Any one company holds employees with multiple employment status’s – what percentages of those, when broken down fall in to the “engaged” assuming the company has fulfilled all the necessary criteria to try and engage its staff? What room is there for personal growth or self direction if you feel you are not there for long? The employee make get the job done effectively, may learn and grow and take everything they can from the experience and then simply move on to new opportunities – because its …..just time to move on and up to different opportunities. That can also be liberating for the employee?


  7. A very thoughtful and thought provoking post Luis. Thank you for taking the time and effort to go to depth on work and engagement.

    I quite liked your conclusion: I wonder which other companies would be going up next, showing us, and demonstrating it at the same time, what employee engagement is all about and how we need to move away from engaging employees to engaging networks and communities alike, so that instead of fighting against one another, like it is happening today, we eventually grow up into helping each other at becoming better at what we already do. From the individual to the collective, from hoarding and protecting your knowledge and position to caring, sharing, and demonstrating empathy and respect for those who have been working really hard on liberating whichever company through their own engaged employees.

    I have posted a link to this on the Employee Engagement Network Facebook Feed. It would also be enriching to have you and your thinking as a member of the Employee Engagement Network. All the best in all of your work.


  8. Good post Luis and sadly true. As you indicate, the path to a fully engaged workforce is not well understood or even partly understood. The truly amazing fact is that the path is a very simple and straightforward one within the grasp of any manager.

    The most basic problem is that the vast majority of executives and managers use a form of the traditional top-down command and control approach to managing people. This approach by its nature tends to demotivate and demoralize employees thus disengaging a person who dearly wants to be engaged.

    So the first step on the path to a fully engaged workforce is to begin to transition to the opposite of top-down, call it Autonomy and Support. The transition is to start truly listening to employees, to their complaints, suggestions, and questions and respond to those “to the satisfaction of the originator”.

    The more the executive or manager does this, the better their employees will perform. Keep doing this more than enough to satisfy the needs of your people and they will slowly but surely learn to trust you and will choose to become engaged.

    Every person has five basic needs: to be heard, to be respected, and to have competence, autonomy, and relatedness (purpose). The extent to which these five needs are met dictates the extent of engagement of the employee. Why do a 100% job? Because as Stephen Covey wrote in his book “Principle-Centered Leadership”, the difference in performance is about 500%. Think about that number for a while.

    The last time I did this, as the executive of a 1300 person unionized group, productivity rose by over 300%, morale and innovation were sky high, most literally loved to come to work, and we were able to crush our competition.

    So listen and respond. Besides, management’s responsibility is to support the work. It is not management’s job to decide what to do, when to do it, or how to do it. That is the job of the members of the workforce and if management provides them the highest quality support, they will excel in performing their work. It is that simple.

  9. Fascinating thoughts here Luis. Great discussion. Interested in you using the example of Yang Yuanqing “.. Lenovo announced how the company’s CEO, Yang Yuanqing, spread the wealth of his $3 million bonus to 10,000 lower level employees…” So what kind of behaviour did he exhibit in his rise to CEO in the first place? This is the interesting piece. Great article. Thank you.

  10. Luis,
    Your discussion of engagement exposes an unfortunate truth. Thank you for pointing me to Issac Getz’s work. I’ll order Freedom Inc. and add this to my ‘must grok’ pile. In my opinion, it is a stretch to suggest that employee engagement does not exist at all, because even as Getz points out about 27% of people within traditional organizations are engaged and he also explained that there are organizations that have found out about the power of a highly engaged team. There are also a lot of other factors at play here, such as place of work, type of work, enablement, opportunity and even geopolitical structures, yet the numbers are still daunting. Even Daniel Pink’s big three drivers, Autonomy , Mastery and Purpose align well to the Getz argument. Imagine your Olympic 8 rowing team having just two rowers pushing the other six and at least one of those rowers pushing in the opposite direction and you quickly feel the pain. My first thought was to self-assess. Which category am I in? Am I engaged and rowing forward, just along for the ride, or working my hardest to push back against an obviously flawed system? After some thought I’ve come to the conclusion that I have may have been guilty of all of these positions over my career and that many people may likely feel the same. Is there a fluid dynamic to employee engagement that could be better mapped over longer timeframes.
    As you know I spend my life considering learning engagement strategies, which may at times follow general employee engagement patterns. It seems to me it would be well worth developing a series of interventions and feedback loops to help organizations realize the opportunity for greater employee engagement. Imagine a simulation that allows you to make a number of real-time “what if” choices so that you can assess the impact of making liberating organizational changes to your workforce. That would be a much sought after asset.:)

  11. Hi Chuck, you raise some excellent points on employees taking on different levels of engagement at different times and places in the organization. The simulation you mention as the ultimate panacea can, in my opinion, be build: it’s a combination of working-out-loud, allowing for mistakes to create what-if scenarios and the collective, open and direct feedback you get from an engaged workforce. People are the most important assets in the organization.

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