Saturday Shoutout!!! Employee Engagement (Part 3)

Employee Engagement: Embrace, Empower and Engage

 Issue 2 | Number 6 | 23 June 2012

In the first article, Employee Engagement: Back to Basics we started off with a quote from Bill Gates about employee engagement which was a good starting point – “The vision is really about empowering workers, giving them all the information about what’s going on so they can do a lot more than they’ve done in the past“.  I went on to explore 3 key critical questions that were raised in research conducted by Ken Blanchard which set the scene.

In the second article, Employee Engagement: Death by 1000 Cups I asked the question about where employee engagement was going?  The answer is … it is on hold at the moment.  I then went onto to argue that employee engagement is a two-way street.  The onus for employee engagement does not lie entirely with the employer.  Employees should also work at developing a sense of ownership about the organisation they work in and has to be a mutual give-and-take relationship between the employer and employee for true engagement to be achieved.

In this third article, Employee Engagement: Embrace, Empower and Engage we begin to explore and look at employee engagement from the point of “If you want them to care, make sure you care.”  In the article by David Lee author of Increasing Employee Engagement: You Must Give First, Then Receive shared a response from an interview with the US Marine Corps …“If you want your employees to be completely devoted to you and your cause, you need to be completely devoted to them.”

Embrace, empower, and engage

According to Jerry Bannach, president of Custom Disability Solutions, before you can expect engagement from your employees you must first give to your employees.  More specifically, in his words, leaders must first embrace, then empower their employees if they expect to engage them.

When asked about his approach to creating a strong, positive culture that fosters employee engagement, Bannach noted that his approach to cultivating employee engagement was first to, “embrace” employees, and then “empower” them.

Bannach defines “embracing employees” as communicating that you value them … and part of valuing them is showing them recognition. You show them that you’re listening to them; you give them a chance to have a voice through that listening … a true voice that is appreciated and respected.  You listen to what they want to have here in an organization.”  Notice the clear recognition that you need to give to get.

If you want something from employees – such as greater engagement, more commitment, or simply more productivity – you need first to focus on how you can serve them. It’s like Steven Covey’s “Seek first to understand“. If you want people to listen to you and understand what you’re saying, you need first to listen and understand what they are saying.  Notice that he also stresses sincere listening, not the perfunctory “ask employees for feedback” sessions that result in zero change.

Results without caring crushes enthusiasm and commitment

Often hard-driving results-driven leaders focus so much on meeting their numbers and their goals, they forget the people part of the equation. They forget the people helping them achieve those goals are human beings who want to feel valued. The people they are driving for results want to feel like they matter as individuals and as human beings.

With this self-absorbed “This is what you must do for me” attitude, these leaders inadvertently prevent the very thing they want and need: employees who care about helping them achieve their goals.

Because they focus primarily on themselves and their needs, leaders with this mindset foster an environment that triggers the same attitude in their employees. Their attitude creates in their employees a disengaged, disinterested “If you don’t care about us, why should we care about you?” response.

A “speak you mind and we’ll listen” philosophy

There was a twist to Bannach’s approach to asking for employee input that was different from what has often been seen – by me and others – as a best practice when asking employees for input and feedback.  You listen to their ideas with the perspective that they don’t have to provide solutions to the issues they may raise or the problems they identify.  They just need to identify them. If they have solutions, that’s great.

Did you miss the previous two articles on employee engagement? You can find them at Employee Engagement: Back to Basics and Employee Engagement: Death by 1000 Cups.

Image: The Social Workplace

Next week’s blog – Employee Engagement (Part 4): Learned Helplessness

If you find these updates useful, feel free to forward on to a work colleague or friend.

About the Author

To fulfil his professional and personal career aspirations, Tony Wiggins created ‘The HR Architect’ brand in 2009.  With a well-grounded focus and passion for HR, he thrives on working across his networks as a thought leader in ‘making a difference’ in the HR arena.

Tony Wiggins is the Founder and UX Editor of Saturday Shoutout!!! and The HR Architect Spends 5 Minutes with …. Tony utilises the blog ‘The HR Architect’ as a social media network and platform that empowers HR professionals to network, assist and support one another, spanning different countries, subcultures and niches.  Contact Tony at or @tonywiggin on Twitter.

2 Responses

  1. Dear Kirby and Tim,
    Thanks for following. Your comments/likes are energising.
    Tony Wiggins

  2. […] the third article, Employee Engagement: Embrace, Empower and Engage we explored and looked at employee engagement from the point of … “If you want them to […]

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