the Front Porch

John Blumberg

Engaged to the Core

The research should be disturbing.  From a corporate perspective it is about productivity.  From a personal perspective it is about fulfillment.  They go hand-in-hand.  It is the issue of employee engagement.  The well-publicized research by the Gallup organization should open our eyes: 

54% are not engaged and 17% are actively disengaged.

A fair amount of thoughtful insight has been written on this topic in the last five years.  As with many issues, the question becomes ... are we addressing the symptom or the root cause of the issue?

The seeds of genuine employee engagement are at the root ... or, shall we say, at the core.  Engagement is an issue of connection.  Think of it as inserting a plug into an electrical socket.  Insert a plug into a loaf of bread and nothing happens.  Insert an inappropriate object into a plug and something happens ... but it won't be good.  It is only through the appropriate connection that electricity can flow.  Oh sure, there can be a strike of lightening, every now and then, that gets things moving. The lightening makes a big impact for a moment.  But it doesn't last.

Employee engagement is not only valuable.  At the very core ... it is an issue of values.

Corporate values are the socket and personal values are the plug.  When properly connected the result is flow ... there is engagement.  Of course, a socket itself can be inoperable without being properly wired to a fuse box.  Which is exactly where we find leadership ... fueling the flow or not.

In GOOD to the CORE, I noted the overwhelming percentage of companies that either do not have stated values ... or, for those who did have stated values, the overwhelming number of employees who could not state them!  I also noted that the likely reason the employees couldn't state them was rooted in their inability to state their own personal values. Gallup's research notes that two-thirds of the work force is only moderately engaged or disengaged.  There seems to be an interesting correlation to a work force that only has a moderate gut feel or intuition about their personal and corporate values ... or have no idea about them at all.

Many would think of "values" as one of those "soft issues."  In organizations, "soft" is code for "one of those nice things ... but not a business imperative."  Leaders who prescribe to the idea they are "soft," rarely provide the electrical current to create employee engagement.  They more likely are like bolts of lightning that create amazing moments with serious collateral damage.  And they look at Gallup's numbers and wonder what is wrong with the employees.  When leaders boldly harness the value of values, something very different begins to happen. 

The possibility for flow begins. 

Employee engagement is nothing short of a "values" proposition.  For organizations and the employees who work there, the bottom-line question might very well be ... how are you wired?

August 2010 Vol. 8 No. 8

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