The ‘Engagement Ring’

by  Julie Winkle-Giulioni  |  Leadership Development

You’ve seen the research. Read the reports. Talked to leaders and employees alike. You know that despite our quantifiable understanding of the bottom-line impact of employee engagement, it continues to elude most organizations.

The reason engagement is such a sought-after commodity is because it’s a powerful contributor to a cycle that every business wants and needs for long-term success. Here’s how it works:

  • Engagement unlocks discretionary effort. It creates the conditions that encourage individuals to volunteer more of themselves, their time, their creativity, and their talents to the organization. Discretionary effort at its core is a choice people make to ‘go the extra mile,’ a choice based in large part on their level of engagement.
  • Then, discretionary effort plays out in innumerable ways. Greater attention to the needs of customers. Improved sales and service. Innovations and improvements. Productivity and efficiency. Bottom-line results.

But it doesn’t stop there. Once you start this ‘engagement ring,’ the cycle can naturally perpetuate itself. Because the thing about employee engagement is that much of what it produces also feeds it.

Depending upon the study, key drivers of engagement include such factors as career opportunities, recognition, performance management, pride in working for the company, organizational reputation, and relationship with one’s immediate supervisor.

These items are inputs to engagement… but they are also frequently the outputs as well. For instance, when an employee is highly engaged in his or her work, and invests discretionary effort to drive extraordinary results:

  • Career opportunities may be more likely to follow. These career opportunities encourage greater engagement and the ring continues.
  • He or she is likely to receive recognition for their work. This recognition encourages greater engagement and the ring continues.
  • The organization will excel, instilling pride. This pride encourages greater engagement and the ring continues.

The process can naturally perpetuate itself… but only once you get an employee into the engagement ring. The good news is that there are countless ways to begin this positive cycle – that also serve the business:

  • Tap into the talents people want to use
  • Demonstrate appreciation
  • Ask for input
  • Highlight successes
  • Offer opportunities to learn and grow
  • Provide honest, meaningful feedback

As leaders, one of the most strategic investments of time and energy may be in taking the actions required to get employees in the engagement ring… because once they get in, they’ll become part of this cycle that can nourish and sustain itself while delivering unbeatable business results.

So, what about you? Are you in the engagement ring? How do you help others in?

Image: Liz Price

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What People Are Saying

Andrew Freedman  |  02 Jan 2013  |  Reply

Appreciate this post, and your position on engagement.

I especially agree with thinking about the outputs of higher levels of engagement – if leaders think about engagement as a leading indicator, yielding outputs, such as the ones you listed, and also things like retained high potential employees and clients, the organization can then align behaviors and also beliefs (culture of the organization) to produce the desired results.

Julie Winkle Giulioni  |  03 Jan 2013  |  Reply

You put it much better than I. Leaders should indeed view engagement as a leading indicator and a very good predictor of results to come.

Deborah L. Parker  |  02 Jan 2013  |  Reply

Great metaphoric use of the engagement ring. So true about the value of starting the cycle to get employees involved and how that process opens up the space for their best efforts to unfold.

Julie Winkle Giulioni  |  03 Jan 2013  |  Reply

I love the way you expressed that, Deborah…. ‘open up the space for their best efforts to unfold.’ Maybe it’s less of a ring and more of an unfolding upward spiral?

Robin Largue  |  04 Jan 2013  |  Reply

The engagement metaphor is symbolic of the improtance of engaging employees. The important piece of maybe why engagement is illusive is because of the dependence on the leader to begin the cycle and keep it going by recognizing good work and connecting with employees in an intentional way.

Emile Bons  |  05 Jan 2013  |  Reply

And one of the things you could easily do as well is start measuring. There are tools out there to help you measure the employee engagement within your company on a continuous base, helping you to pulse your organization and helping you to focus on those points that need some extra attention.

Jason Zeman  |  08 Jan 2013  |  Reply

Please share examples of the best engagement tools available. Thank you.

Julie Winkle Giulioni  |  10 Jan 2013  |  Reply

Jason, are you asking about tools or strategies? I’d love to share strategies for elevating engagement… but want to make sure that’s your request. Thanks!

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