Employee Engagement is very important for the success of any larger business. This fact was recently highlighted in a Harvard study where leaders ranked employee engagement as on of the top 3 success factors for growth. But engaging employees is not easy and presents a continuous challenge for business leaders and their human resource development professionals.

Robinson et al. (2004) define employee engagement as “a positive attitude held by the employee towards the organization and its value. An engaged employee is aware of business context, and works with colleagues to improve performance within the job for the benefit of the organization. The organization must work to develop and nurture engagement, which requires a two-way relationship between employer and employee.”

Many organizations are doing various things to increase employee engagement, often including conducting surveys on employee satisfaction. But surveys are the beginning, not the end, of employee engagement work. The question remains how to create an engaged workforce. The top talent management consultancy DDI stated that a manager must do five things to create a highly engaged workforce. They are:

  • Align efforts with strategy
  • Empower
  • Promote and encourage teamwork and collaboration
  • Help people grow and develop
  • Provide support and recognition where appropriate

Facilitation experts and facilitative leaders know that the best route to engaged employees is to involve people in the redesigning of their own work. Facilitation skills can therefore help you to empower your workforce, promote teamwork and collaborative action, and provide the needed space for creativity, innovation, sharing, and learning. In other words leaders have to create space for genuine engagement. Such genuine engagement starts with finding out what is important to employees in terms of their work, and then jointly figuring out ways to bring more of what they care about into the workplace. The second step is for local departments to come together to identify how to make their work group a great place to work. This focus on the individual and solving issues at the local level provides people with a sense of ownership and control over their work environment, which then leads to increased engagement.

Upgrade your meetings

The most overlooked, fast-track, everyday engagement opportunity available can be found in regular meetings. It is in meetings where people decide whether they will sit on their hands or join in. The fastest, easiest way to increase engagement in your organization is to change the way you meet.

We at The Change Initiative are experts in methods that create genuine engagement such as Open Space, World Café, Timelines, and Appreciative Inquiry, to name a few. But this requires not only some understanding of the art and mastery of facilitation but also something we (and many of our colleagues) call – facilitative leadership.

Facilitative leadership enables employee engagement. Here are three important principles that form the basis for genuine engagement.

  • Involve all types of stakeholders. Expand participation in a change process by including new and different voices so the few no longer decide for the many. When you increase the circle, you produce a critical mass for change and better ideas. Marvin Weisboard coined the phrase “bring the system in the room”.
  • Make use of the power of conversations. Since the development of the World Café method and similar approaches, we have learned that you can expect amazing results if you connect people to each other through conversations that matter. As people engage in meaningful dialogue and build trust you create the foundation for change.
  • Create a vision or dream of what your groups want to achieve. Such a vision or common ground is the glue for groups of people who have the will and energy to complete the tasks ahead.
How to start

The best place to start is by creating engaging and productive meetings, the most overlooked engagement opportunity there is.

Another entry point is to conduct a participatory self-assessment. Based on the principles of total quality management and self-assessment tools, such as the ones of the European Foundation for Quality Management, let you and your employees find out what works, locate areas for improvement, and identify priority actions without overburdening the employees.

Last but not least, if you or your colleagues need to develop or upgrade your skills in this regard you can learn essential skills from our facilitation training courses or we can develop a customized training course based on your needs and experience.

Contact us

If you are interested in learning how to achieve genuine engagement, contact Jost Wagner at jw@change-initiative.com .