How To Find Out If Employees Are Engaged? Use your Eyes and Ears

Two weeks ago I launched and facilitated my new program called Strategic Employee Stakeholder Engagement in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

During the event a number of interesting questions came up in group discussions. One of these was: ‘What are the visible signs of engagement in a business?’

One definition of Engagement is that it is defined as employees who are mentally and emotionally invested in their work and in contributing to their employer‘s success.

If we unpack engagement using NLP, it means that we need to look for visual, auditory and kinaesthetic clues. I gave it some thought and based on my experience in performing communication audits and employee climate surveys came up with the following checklist:

j02160701. Walk around. Use your eyes and ears. Listen carefully how people address each other. Do they use titles, or first name terms? Look for clues of us versus them.

2. Look for clothing, office arrangements and /or perk differences – this gives a clue about status or job level differences.

3. Look where people get together to talk. Study the body language and facilitation patterns of people.

4. Take a close look at formal communication channels and media. Look at the tone of the conversations.

5. Look at visible motivation efforts such as posters and the like.

6. Have conversations with people. Ask them what they do. Look out for differences beyond words.

In her book, Transformation Thinking, Joyce Wycoff also listed the following clues:

While each organization has its own personality and culture, look for the following clues:

  • white boards and easel pads in meeting rooms, common areas, and offices lots of open-access bulletin boards,
  • walls covered with charts, graphs, flowcharts, and project maps, pictures of employees doing things together both at work and socially, product demonstrations or product pictures on display,
  • pictures of customers using products or special boards for customer comments, survey results or letters,
  • frequent clustering of people working on problems, issues and ideas ,
  • open doors throughout the organization,
  • high energy cafeterias used by all levels and often subsidized , high contribution to community and charitable organizations – adopt-a-school, etc.,
  • high level of involvement in sports and social activities,
  • first-come, first-serve parking ,
  • absence of executive perks – "mahogany row," executive dining rooms, etc.
  • employee-oriented newsletters – employee stories, celebration of personal events, reports on social activities, pictures, shared information – sales, profits. shipments or other financial goals posted for all to see
  • personalized workspaces, sometimes radically personalized
  • frequent celebrations at the organization, department and individual level – from birthday parties to award presentations,
  • frequent training opportunities open to all
  • frequent sighting of company T-shirts, hats and other insignia
  • company legends – stories of success or outlandish events or deals,
  • high level of acceptance of diversity and tolerance of eccentricity,

Last but definitely not least: lots of laughter and fun!

What about your organisation? Take the next 5-10 minutes to identify “clues”from your own organisation. Then compare notes with the members of your team. What could you do to implement some of the clues?

The clues listed above are not just cosmetics or window dressings that management can dictate or manipulate. They are the underlying clues (Schein called it artefacts) that the organization supports individual growth,transformation and is serious about engagement.

P.S Please note I did not even mention Social Media…..just to make a point that employee engagement is far more than social networking techniques.