Engagement 2.0 – Engagement of Employees in the Future – A Guest Blog by Thorsten Eger

Posted by MarchFifteen & filed under Organizational Psychology.

We are privileged to post a guest blog from our client Thorsten Eger, Vice President of Human Resources at Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada, whose perspectives on employee engagement we highly value.  We hope you enjoy the read and look forward to your comments.

Engagement 2.0 – Engagement of Employees in the Future

By: Thorsten Eger

Recently, I attended an online internet forum discussing, with global HR colleagues from 40 world-leading companies, how we could continue to drive the engagement of employees – Engagement 2.0 so to say – and what this could look like in the future. It generated an amazing thought exchange with hundreds of discussion strings and posts.

One string, initiated by myself, was along the line of “Entitlement Culture”. Do we need even more programs/services (e.g. snow removal service for cars during winter times, on-site nail services, etc.) to keep employees or a workforce engaged in the future? Or do we take a step back and look once more into strategies to get the basics right (e.g. empowerment, respectful interactions, involvement, appreciation, etc.)?

As soon as I posted my ideas, it dawned on me that I tried to conceptually detach something which is difficult to separate. However, I ignored this thought in order to provoke a good discussion, after all this was a thought exchange and not a scientific attempt to find an ultimate answer. It worked! Overall, my post triggered dozens of responses, many focusing on leadership. In this guest blog for MarchFifteen, I want to share some of the key statements/responses without giving you an ultimate recipe:

  1. The daily routines seem to be far more important in creating (or destroying) engagement than any extras. If employees feel mismanaged, micro-managed, ignored, bullied, or over-worked, all the extra services will not make it right;
  1. More services can never compensate for a culture where the basics are not obeyed. But if those basics are truly right then the added services, which could support the “whole employee”, can generate even higher levels of engagement. This is because they are not only convenient and make life easier, they also respond to an individual’s need to feel valued by their employer – a “warm glow”;
  1. Note that at times extra services can even be seen as demotivating, as it can give the impression that problems get hidden rather than prevented – kind of like putting “lipstick on a pig”! So again, the basics have to be solid or you can give the complete opposite impression of what was intended.
  1. Extra services covering particular needs feel good for the short term – a bit like a nice meal – but it doesn’t last. People thrive on Autonomy, Purpose and Mastery (Daniel H. Pink). The key here is getting managers and HR tools to set an environment where this can happen. And Neuroscience backs these ideas up – drive was built into our evolutionary make up;
  1. A simple handwritten “Thank You” card can move mountains when it comes to engagement;
  1. The immediate managers have a key role to play. It is these individuals that are the closest to the employees, and it is they who can build true engagement by showing employees that they are trusted, empowered, and at the end of the day feeling like they have contributed to making the company a better place.

I will stop here – a lot of food for thought. And as mentioned above it’s not about giving the answer to a question, but more to further provoke our thinking as HR leaders. To be frank, I couldn’t even provide an answer, as there would be the need to take many, many dimensions into account – dimensions not mentioned in this blog, for example organizational maturity to name just one.

However, when reflecting on all the thoughts from my HR colleagues without further consolidation or any subjective summary, it seems to be unanimous that it is not yet time to move away from focusing on getting the basics right. And it actually leads me to the ultimate question – will I or you ever say that the basics are close to right/“perfect”? And how do we actually know that this time has arrived? I look forward to your thoughts and comments.

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