Why engagement is not about employee entertainment

Rekha Nair


written on September 11, 2017

Engagement is often misconstrued as being just about company events and activities. However in order for an employee to be engaged, a deeper connection is required.

Recently, I was invited to give a guest lecture at TAPMI Manipal B-school, a university in India, for their HR Conclave. I chose to speak about “Employee Engagement: Happiness Index in HRM”, which is professionally a very close topic to my heart, as it’s one of the main priorities in my everyday life as an HR Business Partner.

One of the big takeaways for me from this session was about the importance of people in any business and why engagement plays such a pivotal role. Too often we get caught up with revenue and margins so that we are blindsided to everything else — to our employees, their aspirations, their motivation and passion. In today’s world, where there is no dearth of machines or technology, people have become the primary source of competitive advantage. Any organisation can win in the marketplace if they get their talent strategy in place. When we say talent strategy it includes everything from understanding and assessing talent, hiring the right talent, developing the right people, focusing on building leaders, creating an awesome culture and people engagement.

The factors influencing engagement for any generation are economics, politics and social lifestyle. But when we specifically look at millennials, for example, some of their common traits are ambition and taking risks. They prefer more transparency, less bureaucracy and have a need for identification and role models.

The general perception and myth about HR is that their job is to conduct fun activities and organise parties or games for employees. Employee engagement is often confused with fun. Engagement, however, is a much deeper aspect which drives the individual to go that extra mile voluntarily and where people do something not because they have been told to but because they want to.

Engagement is about a stronger connection that a person has with something in the firm – it can be the work, the manager, the vision – anything. Identifying and measuring the causes and factors that drive engagement are critical because they serve as the basis of creating an effective ‘intervention’. As for every HR intervention, the holy grail of ROI will come up even in the case of engagement initiatives. Apart from the usual measures like retention numbers, ESAT and CSAT, engagement is a softer aspect which often cannot be measured directly. Employee engagement, motivation and satisfaction are correlated but not the same.

You can say that your people are engaged when you see them proactively taking initiatives and helping team members, going above and beyond their job responsibilities and bringing forth creative ideas and innovation. Also, their attitude and behaviour when the chips are down, when they are happy and even when they quit is a direct indication of their engagement levels.

We need to focus on transforming events into employee experience and use Design Thinking as an approach to achieve that. The top priority for HR today is to build a great work culture. This is simply a shared way of doing something with passion, and to achieve that we need to focus on creating a great employee experience which will lead to an engaged workforce.

Rekha Nair is a senior HR business partner at Brillio.

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One thought on “Why engagement is not about employee entertainment

  1. Fantastic post. I am just about to send out an Employee Engagement Survey in my organisation and form an employee engagement committee. It is important to note that culture stems from the top down and employee engagement is not just a HR responsibility. Having employee engagement ambassadors and buy in across all levels and areas of the business is important for engagement strategies to be useful and implemened.

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