Monday 17 December 2012

#E4S David Guest on Engagement (why would employees want to be engaged?)


   I’m at another Engage for Success conference today (my last conference this year, yay!), this time for one organised by Katie Truss at the University of Kent at Canterbury.  There’s a great speaker list and I'm just here as an attendee / blogger so there should be plenty of posting today.

The first input has been from David Guest at King’s.  I try not to post on the same academic more than once (though I do seem to mention a select few including Dave Ulrich, Peter Cappelli and John Boudreau much more frequently) but I do like David Guest’s work so am going to post on his inputs again.

David’s perspective on engagement is that this is generally the same as his wider focus on high commitment HRM (you can see another one of the slides he showed today at the bottom of my previous post on his insights.)  I’m not sure this worked for everyone here – eg there’s been a bit of tweeting about a lack of humanity in his approach, linked to one of the key E4S beliefs that we’re all people, not a human resource’.

I’m a big believer in the need for a logical framework to underpin the way that we manage our people, so I tend to respond more positively to David’s approach (thought I’d reafirim that this then needs executing in an emotionally rich way.)

I also like David’s key premise that there’s no reason why employees should want to be engaged.  In particular some people only work for instrumental reasons – they get their engagement elsewhere.  We therefore have to earn an engaged response.  Lack of engagement is therefore an enormous management failure (see my post on ‘Engagement or Entwistle’ - I wonder if a high proportion of fat cat CEOs are part of David’s instrumentalists group, which might be one reason for the failure?)

David suggested these 12 actions we can take to earn engagement (so a G12 vs Gallup’s Q12):


That strikes me as a fairly sound list.

Probably the one thing I’d add to it, which I think it particularly important for engagement, rather than just generic HRM, is a sense of purpose – the answer to the question ‘engagement to what?’.

Anything you’d add to it?


We’ve got a presentation from Harry Donaldson from the GMB talking about ‘what’s in it for the workers’ so I may come back to this topic again later on.


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  1. a sense of purpose is absolutely key. whether that's about what you do (job) vs the organisation is perhaps a secondary issue. Without helping people find purpose we miss the reason for getting up in the morning!

  2. Jon this is a good list but there seems to be one action missing.... a sense of fun. I’m not being trite when I say lists are fine and management techniques essential but what fires up people to get out of the bed in the morning and stay with an organization is that they actually enjoy what they are doing. As the CEO of a large international technology company I took the decision to focus on this some time ago and have found increased productivity and a better working atmosphere in the office. And also I’ve given myself a new job title to match: Chief Happiness Officer and CEO.

  3. Thanks Michael, yes, I agree, and I think the basis for purpose will differ from person to person, and organisation to organisation - but we absolutely need to help our employees find it.

    Thanks Ara - I think fun is a key one for many, possibly most, people and organisations. I was a HRD at Ernst & Young when we developed some new values (actually our execs developed them for us) and one of these was fun - which just wasn't what E&Y was about, and reduced resonance with not just this, but the other values too.

    So I do think it depends.

    And yes, Ara, I'd noticed your new job title - an interesting one indeed!

    Thanks very much for your comments.


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