Yesterday, Best Companies run an event for a selected group of senior managers and managing directors coming from different organisations at The Art of Engagement. The group have been gathered together in order to gain understanding about employee engagement, think about it as well as be helped on dealing with it within their own companies.
To start from, they have been asked to think about where their organisations were standing in terms of engagement. Were their organisations fully engaged, satisfied or perhaps anxious?
This preliminary level of awareness is important as it is to understand what is actually meant by engagement and what engagement is not. In fact, employee engagement is often associated with words such as motivation, communication and satisfaction. Although these ideas are connected with engagement, they are not the thing itself. In particular, many organisations confuse it with ‘job satisfaction’.
Best Companies believe it is important to understand this.
In that regards, work by Watson and Tellegen - ‘Toward a consensual structure of mood’ (1985) - can help to explain the difference between engagement and satisfaction. Their theory starts from distinguishing pleasant emotions from the unpleasant ones. However, emotions are not simply felt as good as bad. In fact, one more dimension is missing which differentiates between emotions that are active and those that are in a deactivation mode.
Up on the left there are the ACTIVE UNPLEASANT feelings such as stress, anxiety, hostility and anger.
Down below on the left, there are the still UNPLEASANT but PASSIVE feelings such as feeling bored, useless and low.
Moving to the right, we have the more enjoyable alternatives to these emotions. These are the PLEASANT PASSIVE emotions which include general contentment and SATISFACTION.
In the same way as being angry is very different from simply feeling low, so the ACTIVE PLEASANT feelings are very different from feeling simply satisfied. Up here is where ENGAGEMENT lies along with enthusiasm and excitement. These are positive feelings that really get people going the extra mile.
Therefore, engagement is an ACTIVE PLEASANT emotion. Best Companies refer to ‘EMOTIONAL ENGAGEMENT’ as ‘doing it because you want to, not because you have to’. When you are engaged at work, your attention is focused on doing a good job, you feel directed connected to your work and how it contributes to the organisations’ goals. That is why engagement, rather than job satisfaction, can tell us more about how people are likely to actually behave.
Going back to our group of seniors at The Art of Engagement yesterday, 30% of them said their organisations where in an anxiety mode, 30% of them said to be in a satisfaction mode and 40% of them where in the engagement mode.
For those organisations where employees are in an anxiety mode rather than in engagement mode there are challenges to overcome. In fact, when people are anxious they are unable to release their full potential and to perform at their best. Often, it is a level of insecurity as well as lack of a clear future direction that put organisations in anxiety. That is why, in order to tackle the problem and engage those people, ORGANISATIONAL CLARITY becomes largely important. Actually, this is the very first priority leadership should focus on.
Even those organisations who find themselves in a satisfactory mode should work hard to move to the engagement zone. In fact, although being in a pleasant mode they are still passive.
Finally, organisations that recognise themselves as engaged should continue to make sure their people do not get in one of the other areas of the quadrum.
In conclusion, “Where is standing your organisation?”.
It is important to answer that question and gain this first level of awareness. Then, meaningful and appropriate steps should follow and be made in order to let the organisation move forward and be fully engaged.