Despite what many professionals believe, employee engagement is not rocket science.
The principles of employee engagement are the exact same principles you would apply at home, on your children.
Employee engagement doesn’t work in isolated ideas and sporadic projects, it only works if your organization adopts a change in mindset about employees, and consistently views them as human beings and partners versus company human resources.
Engaging employees, according to academic literature, involves making them fully absorbed with and enthusiastic about their work (and by association, workplace).
Now let’s think a little about this broad definition of employee engagement, and how it would apply to your daughter. How do you go about making your daughter fully absorbed and enthusiastic about her family and home?
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In my mind, if I meet my daughter’s basic needs and provide her with necessities like food and shelter, toys, medical attention when needed, and an education, I should be golden, right? Wrong.
My last example covered only one type of human need, according to American psychologist Abraham Maslow, who developed Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, there are five types of human needs; physiological needs are those basic needs required for survival, the things I mentioned in my earlier example.
The next type of needs are safety needs like well-being, financial security, and so on. Love and belonging are the third type of need, applying them to your daughter could involve a sense of family, friendship and intimacy. The fourth need is esteem, which involves things like self-confidence, recognition and appreciation. Finally, self-actualization is the desire to achieve anything that you think you can and be the most you can.
Here is how to apply those needs:
The Absolute Bare Minimum
You already got the physiological needs covered (hopefully), to employees, this means availing a reasonable workspace or desk, a reasonable manager, a good chair, working air conditioner, reasonable breaks, and so on. The absolute bare essentials.
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Now let’s discuss the other needs and how we can apply them to the parenting analogy. Safety needs for your daughter would involve things like well being, personal security, and financial security for example. Making her feel safe both personally and financially, so making her feel that you care about her safety like if she falls down you react appropriately to comfort her, you would teach her not to talk to strangers, and cater to her general wellbeing, now let’s apply this concept to employees.
Financial security to an employee would include paying them reasonable compensation and on time, showing them that the company is growing, financially stable and not going anywhere. Wellbeing and personal security would involve things like maintaining a safe work environment, better and more ergonomic chairs for example, or better health and medical benefits.
The Love and Care
Back to the parenting analogy, this is self-explanatory and covers things like sharing feelings of affection and intimacy, a sense of family ties like regular visits to grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, regular family visits, Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners. Friendship is being friends with your daughter, regular and scheduled quality play time, and showing up to her school plays. Now how do we apply those same concepts to employees? Let’s take them one by one.
Affection and intimacy can be interpreted as developing a bond with your employees, understanding their interests and concerns, what makes them happy and their biggest fears. Seeing them as the unique human beings behind the company human resources. This is easily achieved on a team or department level versus on a company level.
Friendship ties take the relationship with your employees to the next level, you want to encourage teams to develop close friendship bonds, like endorsing regular and periodical recreational activities, dinners, movie nights, barbecues, sports days, and whatnot. Finally, family bonds can be mapped to regularly educating employees about company news and achievements, awards, new contracts, and of course product portfolio, company vision, mission, and values.
Self-confidence, recognition, and appreciation to your daughter would mean congratulating her when she gets an A in class, making her Sweet 16 a big deal, and rewarding her when she saves up for a new bike. Other examples could be telling your friends her stories and adventures and keeping her picture in your office.
To your employees, this means celebrating team and individual successes, running regular recognition and appreciation programs like team of the week, company values-based awards, achievement awards, tenure awards, performance appraisals and bonuses, raises, and adopting a holistic training and development process.
This need is the black belt of employee engagement and according to Maslow, should be approached when all other needs are mastered. Self-actualization to your daughter would mean helping her find her passion and then encouraging her to pursue it. Like, for example, exposing her to different sports until she finds one she truly enjoys and then signing her up for extra classes or taking her to national and regional games.
The exact same concepts apply to employees, but in a work setting, we would be looking at things like career path planning and accelerated development programs. Having a mature Human Resources organization is vital for this need. You must have a clear answer and plan for a question like “where would I be in 10 years if I stay with you and what exactly would I be doing?” This also means having the organizational maturity to see a vivid image of the future of the company and the different careers within.