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There is more to work than just the daily grind-Getting to grips with employee engagement

According to Deloitte’s third annual “Global Human Capital Trends 2015: Leading in the New World of Work” report released in March 2015, lack of employee engagement is the top issue currently facing 87 percent of HR and business leaders (up from 79 percent last year). Yet, the majority of organizations are still failing to take action to improve their culture, potentially jeopardizing future growth. 

We at the Centre for Positive People @ Work have asked hundreds of employees over different industries including both the private as well as the public sector to tell us in their own words about a time when they were fully engaged while they were at work. We asked them to recall a time at work, while doing their day-to-day job when their levels of energy and positiveness were the highest ever.

Just getting employees to tell their stories of when they were highly engaged in itself was an extraordinary experience, not only for those who listened to the stories but also for those telling the stories. We heard of ordinary people doing extraordinary things, often way beyond of what they themselves or their organisations believed could be possible.
We saw story after story how people become alive and energised of how their stories transformed them and the people listening to their narratives as if they could not believe that it was possible that work could be so much more than how they currently experience their work on a daily level. 

We all had those extraordinary experiences where we were alive while at work, where we were excited and passionate about being at work and where we surprised ourselves and our managers of what we are capable of doing. We all had experiences where the work that we did engaged our full self, where we felt our potential was recognised and we were given the opportunity to realise that full potential – where we actually become that person that we know are lying there, deep down within ourselves, just waiting for the right opportunity to show itself – of connecting with our full selves – that person that we know we are capable of being.

We run the risk of reducing the rich meaning of employee engagement by trying to define it, but common to the experience of employees being engaged we saw in our research that being engaged always involved people coming to work being highly energised, they feel alive and full of energy while being at work as opposed to the drag and boredom of the daily grind, the mere executing of daily tasks. They also experienced various positive emotions while at work like enjoyment (enjoying what they do), being proud of the work that they do, feeling excited by what they do, being enthusiastic about what they do and being deeply interested in what they do. Lastly this psychological experience of being engaged while at work almost invariably involved employees choosing to display discretionary effort by behaving in ways where they do much more than what is expected of them. 

 We all had these exceptional experiences but what if, we wondered, if this way of working can become the norm and not the exception. What if companies can succeed in unleashing this hidden potential?
In telling their stories we saw that surrounding these stories there was a coming together, a convergence of many things that created the perfect conditions for these employees to flourish. We saw that many aspects within the work environment worked together to create these opportunities where individuals could perform at their best. These conditions did not happen on its own it was either carefully created by design or it converged by coincidence – in most cases we saw it was by accident but now by understanding the dynamics involved we can now say with confidence that management can now replicate those conditions not by accident but by design.

If we can manage to create the right conditions where employee engagement can come into play – as one of our clients has put it so eloquently – “creating excellence from the inside out” – we can see that the unleashing of employee engagement is much more than just benefitting the company – it is a process that is truly beneficial for all employees as well – where the daily grind gives way to doing work that is meaningful, where day-to-day transacting gets transformed into employees who out of their own free will takes charge of work, taking personal initiative to fix problems and doing way more than what is expected of them.

We all know one or two employees who are engaged. Our challenge is to get a critical mass of our employees to be engaged. From the above we can see that having engaged employees is an important management topic which has been associated with important outcomes for both the employee and the organisation. In short employee engagement is highly desirable. The key question then arise how can this desirable state be replicated so that it become the norm and not the exception. We will provide some of the answers in our next delivery…

The Centre for Positive People @ Work is a Centre of Excellence established by Dr Willie Visser to provide thought leadership, research and practical implementation to companies in the core areas of Employee Engagement, Linking Employee Engagement to the Developing of Innovative Cultures and Executive Resilience. Dr Visser recently entered into a strategic alliance with USB-ED to enhance the offering of USB-ED to its clients. If you are interested in making employee engagement a reality in your organisation you can contact Dr Willie Visser, Director: Centre for Positive People @ Work on 

Dr Willie Visser
Director: Centre for Positive People @ Work 

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