Successful employee engagement needs a vision of future success and a culture of inclusion
Last week I attended a conference on employee engagement. It offered several extremely interesting case studies on successful practice. However, I was surprised that none of them mentioned the power of a vision of future success and building an inclusive culture for getting the best employee engagement results.
Let’s take these two elements separately and so what is the importance of having a future vision of success? Essentially, the vision provides the driver for engagement. It is a pulling factor in that it offers people a picture of the future success, say in 3, or 5, years’ time, that their collective effort will generate. Notice that I’ve put the emphasis on a ‘picture’. Employees need to be given a picture in their minds of what future success will look like for their organisation in terms of:
1. What will its future mission be and what business results will this be delivering.
2. What capabilities will have been developed to deliver this mission and the associated business results.
3. How will the organisation be assembled to deliver this future success and what will the business systems be like.
4. What workforce behaviours are going to be driving the success.
It is also important that people are aware of what are the consequences of not delivering the vision and how they can each contribute to its success.
Taking the second element, why is inclusive engagement important? Professor Mary Rowe (MIT) demonstrated in the 1970s that we are all constantly giving and receiving positive and negative micro messages in our interactions with others. Positive ones, e.g. ensuring that someone is briefed when they could not be present at the meeting you called, acknowledging another person’s contribution or feelings, ensuring you regularly ask others how they are, help people to feel included. Negative ones, e.g. making eye contact with certain people at a meeting and not others, interrupting another person, reading documents while another person is talking, result in a person feeling excluded. Whether the messages are intentional or unintentional they convey value or devaluation. These messages let people know how we really feel about them and more importantly how we value their contributions. Hence a person cumulatively receiving positive micro-messages will feel valued and respected and their self-esteem will be increased and they feel included. However, those who receive negative micro-messages from others will feel devalued and excluded. It is the cumulative effect of these micro messages that affects individuals. Mary Rowe demonstrated that individuals who experience a pattern of negative micro messages, known as microinequities, will tend to withdraw and be less engaged. Furthermore, her work demonstrated that individuals who belong to groups that have been historically excluded and disrespected because of their difference, e.g. women, minority ethnics, gays and lesbians, disabled persons, elderly people, tend to experience more microinequities and, as a result, tend to feel somewhat less engaged.
Hence, it is critical to build an inclusive workplace to fully engage everyone in a diverse workforce. Previous best practice blogs have described how managers can foster inclusive workplaces, see June 2012 blog. The most powerful driver is the managers themselves being role models in inclusive behavior.
As always, please contact me if you want to find out more about IDC’s approach to building high performance workplaces through inclusive engagement.
Dr Ian Dodds, 29 June 2012, email@example.com
· The principal and unrecognised cause of workplace exclusion - microinequities