Employee Engagement: 79% of employees have not heard of it

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November 27th, 2013

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In a recent study of employees across the UK, conducted by Surveylab, a striking statistic emerged: nigh on 80% of those polled had not heard of the term ‘Employee Engagement’.  I picked up on this statistic via Doug Shaw’s excellent blog, and the conversation in the comments at end of his post are worth a read, not least because it seems to reflect a wider pattern of conversation and debate, and the kernel of the problem.

Them and Us-ness

Do you talk to, with or at employees?...

Do you talk to, with or at employees?…

Whether or not you believe the data, and one of Surveylab’s people goes into more detail on the sampling and methodology here, I suggest that the people in organisations who talk about ‘Employee Engagement’ are not those who are on the end of it. Employee Engagement is typically something ‘done unto’ others rather than with people. It may be presented as an invitation to hear what you think, to start a conversation, to get feedback, and the very framing of the intervention and exchange as ‘Employee Engagement’ implies that I (as the person beginning to engage with you) am standing OVER HERE, and I am going to make an attempt to come over to where you are, albeit for a short period of time.

So what now?

Roffey Park’s own research in this area, which can be found here, looks at the whole area of employee engagement and staff surveys. Crucially, it asks: what does engagement look like at the coal face of daily working lives? I suspect that Employee Engagement is not so much a term that needs retiring, or should never be used, rather a little more honesty around intention and your starting point would be helpful. If your relationship with employees has reached the stage where your thinking is framed as ‘how can I engage with my people?, I would tactfully suggest starting with a conversation that is informed by more human(e) and less instrumental language e.g. How are you? What is working well at the moment? What isn’t? What can we/I do to help?…. And if that engages them, well that is a good place to start and, crucially, explore what needs to continue.

If you want to find out more about our approach to engaging employees in a human way, get in touch.