Engagement – the elephant in the room

There is relentless positive rhetoric around employee engagement, which has given the concept visibility.

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The business case is overwhelming, as argued by Engage for Success (UK government report). But it has also resulted in the repackaging of top-down communication masquerading as employee engagement, setting unrealisable expectations.

Those expectations lead employees to assume they will be more party to day-to-day decision-making and strategy that affects them and which they can improve.

Most so-called engagement is top-down; presentational communication about decisions, large and small, made by traditional command and control leaders.

The critical test of employee engagement is whether considered judgement is made by leadership teams on which groups will add value and drive execution if engaged in real decisions up front. No amount of dressing up decisions made by the few as “engagement” will wash.

The elephant is that many leaders have not had this insight and believe that they can spray some engagement on to command and control. They can’t. A real culture of engagement requires a shift to more mutual styles of leadership.

For more insight into how to drive performance, John Smythe’s book, Velvet Revolution At Work: The Rise Of Employee Engagement, The Fall of Command And Control is available to buy.



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