Employee engagement: WTF is this?

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Reading the twitter feed over the weekend I came across several posts about the employee engagement. What is employee engagement? To me it sounds like the old-fashion term used by HR managers. They talk about it a lot, they even can attempt to perform some annual surveys to measure it. The definition of it can also a bit different for the HR manager, top manager and the developer, who is working in your project team.
Managers usually think of the engagement as the willingness of the employees to live their life at work.

Why the employee should care?

If you study the list of the companies named as the “best places to work” during the last years you notice that the main reason for them being named so is not having ping-pong tables, cookies and Play Station – the reason is their unique “soul”. Yes, this “soul” includes the ping-pong tables or any other things that form the working environment, showing that the company cares about it. It is saying “Guys, don’t worry about anything, focus on what you are best at! We will take care about the rest.” I am taking about the “company” as some living creature standing “above” the employees, but, of course – it is the employees themselves.
As for the work place comfort, ping-pong tables, salary and benefits – they are more the “hygiene” factors, not the motivators. When you have them – it does not motivate you, but when you don’t have them – it causes a lot of troubles. But the other part – motivators – like challenging tasks, achievements, recognition, being the part of the company’s “soul” – make the deal.

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I think the trick here is that employees do not care about the company, they care about something else, something bigger than just organization. We all know that companies exist to make money. Why should we care about someone’s money? We care about the “soul”, about this creature, which is us, which is bigger than us and we care about the meaningness.

Typical hiring process in software company

You will say – “Ok, I will just hire the great people. They will create this soul”. But how you attract these great people? Do you think they are just wondering somewhere looking for your company? You’ll probable suggest paying them a lot.

Ok, you’ll hire now the people who care about the high salaries. Can you then be disappointed that your employees care about money and want the payment to be raised regularly? 🙂

Ok, it is not working…Let’s try the other way. So should we pay them below the average so we get the people who don’t care about the money? But what you offer in addition to that low payment?

You can be surprised, but creating this “magic” that will attract the people you are dreaming of – can be much more expensive that just paying them a lot.

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So don’t be lazy – you are the one to give the birth to the soul. No one will come and make the miracle for you. The solutions are not easy, they require the full management commitment. There is no place for “pretending”.

Self-motivated and fully committed people

Everyone want to hire the self-motivated employees who are in addition fully committed. We dream about the passionate developers who would work 12 hours a day, coding non-stop; talented designers, who spend their weekends thinking over the new product concept. And we try to recognize them during the interview process – while the candidates try to show that they are highly self-motivated, and super passionate.  So we hire them. That is a kind of a game we play each time.

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The worst thing here is when the company is looking for such people only because they want to get more profit. Pay less, get more. Get the fully committed people who work more than they are paid for. Increasing the efficiency, not paying for overtimes. Good job, project manager, your project profit KPI is much better this quarter! So why they are surprised when the employees want the opposite – work less, get more?) Not only managers are smart in this world.

So you should know why you need such people and what you’ll do with them) Don’t think that passionate people are the people who just work more. They main treasure is not the productivity, but the ability to learn, adapt, deal with new challenges, create innovative solutions, being highly motivated by the work itself.

Be honest and build the trust

I think it is the key thing. As I saw development companies being dead from inside without the honesty. When management didn’t trust the development teams and teams didn’t trust the management. Everyone was pretending that everything is ok, and “pretending” was one of the most important skills in the company, especially for the project managers.

The main part of building a great company is building trust – trust in leaders, trust in managers, and trust in employees.

How to do all of that magic? I think, it is a hard everyday work, where you can’t cut corners or “pretend”. The most important thing to start with – is to be honest with yourself. You, as the manager, should understand your values first.

3 thoughts on “Employee engagement: WTF is this?

  1. Nice post! I noticed a small typo in “managers”. “Not only manages are smart in this world.” Second paragraph of “Self-motivated and fully committed people”

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