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Taking employee engagement to relate on a personal level, think of the last time you were networking or having a conversation with someone new. One of the first questions asked from either end was likely "what do you do," and the other probably filled you in with details about their job and how they ended up there. But why are they there doing what they do in the first place? Explaining what we do and how we do it is easy and it is what our surroundings teach us to do. Why we do it is a complicated and challenging subject that many employees and entire organizations ignore. Employee engagement is a result of an underlying purpose. If an organization as a whole does not effectively communicate a purpose and drives employee motivation and expectations by results alone - that organization probably faces issues with employee engagement.
First: Why do we do it?
When tackling the subject of employee engagement we must ask ourselves - are we really starting in the right place? Many publications and recommended strategies on the subject of employee engagement look straight into what the reasons are for employees being disengaged or unsatisfied. Then they immediately offer a solution on how to fix it. They are missing the most important part of the circle. When initially approaching employee engagement it is important to look within the core of your organization and leadership to understand why employee engagement is an issue in the first place. The Golden Circle pictured above is from a great presentation by Simon Sinek for TED Talks on "How great leaders inspire action."
Second: How can we improve?
The scope in which employees see their organization defines it's reality. The real way to engage employees is to make them be there for themselves and something they believe in. The goal from the beginning is not just to hire people that need a job, it is to hire people who believe what you believe. If a shared belief was not considered at the time of on-boarding a new employee, it's not to late to train them to change their thought process. It's important to encourage employees to think about the organization's beliefs, challenge the status quo, and communicate the results. One of the big takeaways from Simon Sinek's talk is that inspired leaders think, act and communicate from the inside out.
Third: What do we have?
Following a concept as simple as "the golden circle" applies to employee engagement and almost any other business practice. When every employee understands and shares a common ground with why the organization exists, it becomes crystal clear to see what they need to do next. After knowing why you do it and how you can improve it - it becomes evident to assess what you have today and what you need moving forward. This unlocks and opens the door to the first step of true employee engagement - which is employee motivation.