If you Google the term engagement, you’ll find a wide variety of meanings, from the fairly innocuous “the action of engaging or being engaged” to the more aggressive suggestion of “a fight or battle between armed forces”! It’s no wonder there’s a confusion around what exactly engagement means and how it can be applied to improving both relationships and understanding in the world today.
Everywhere you turn, people are complaining about either not being able to engage with organisations and institutions in the way they would like to, or quite simply not being engaged at all. Citizens are tired of politicians who are not engaged with their needs, millennials are accused of not being engaged with anything other than their smartphone screen, educators talk about parents who are not interested in the teaching process, while parents complain that schools don’t do enough to engage with their children to develop and prepare them for life in the wider world! Then we have organisations who are merely paying lip service to the concept of engagement, treating it as a fad, and jumping on the bandwagon without truly understanding the pulse of their employees.
It is exhausting and could be disheartening if one just reads the headlines. It is difficult sometimes to even comprehend the problem, never mind figure out the first steps to take. While it may seem like little is being done about it, nothing could be further than the truth. There are plenty of programs and initiatives at all levels of the society that are aiming to engage everyone better. Unfortunately, most of these don’t get the results that they aim for. According to the Forbes report ‘Why Engagement fails – and what to do about it’ by Bill Fotsch and John Case, most of them fail because of two main reasons:
- Not having the right type of leader
- A poor understanding of how engagement should drive better business performance
In my opinion, those reasons are caused by a failure to understand and answer two key questions: “Why are you trying to engage?” and “What are you trying to achieve”?
Everything must start with a clear understanding of purpose. It must be grounded in the organisation’s reason for being and should be values driven. (The type of organisation doesn’t matter, it can be educational, state run, private etc.) When the Why is clear, it is easy for everyone to rally behind it. Once everyone is behind the purpose, then it is important to know the What. Being specific about the What allows the right pulse to be measured, the right parties to be motivated and prompts and enables the two-way dialogue moving forward that can then lead to success.
Technology can help. With the above-mentioned ubiquitous smartphone screens, the right purpose and with the What identified, everyone can be connected and engaged all over the world. Leaders can know the pulse of their organisations on demand, engage in dialogue instantaneously, and provide information and learning opportunities tailored to the needs of the user. Those wanting to be engaged have a meaningful way to instantaneously provide the feedback and consume content wherever they are and whenever they want it.
Engage for something meaningful that will then achieve your purpose, is a simple but logical formula that will ensure successful engagement. And maybe, just maybe, help improve everyone’s experience of life.
Suresh Sundarababu – VP Global Sales & Marketing