Why People Are Engaged In Business

The key to success in life and work is having the motivation and energy to get up each and every morning and actually ‘do’ something that contributes to the achievement of your goals and objectives. This means being fully committed to, and engaged with a role in life, or a job of work.

And that’s where the challenge lies.

In 2010 the employee engagement situation in UK businesses looked like it needed attention with the latest Gallup Engagement Survey revealing that only 24{a61c4e1b991c7f3a090c87cb66410712d4121fe18ab0f6421d85cbe80290558f} of UK employees are engaged with their jobs.

Also an online study of 2000 organisations by the Hay Group revealed that HR managers now rate employee motivation and engagement as their number one concern.

But there is also research showing that less than 20{a61c4e1b991c7f3a090c87cb66410712d4121fe18ab0f6421d85cbe80290558f} of managers have received any training in engagement skills or how to bring out the best in their people.

So if this is where we are today even before things start to get really rough in terms of the business challenges ahead, what are we to do?

Let’s look at what it means to be human and express yourself in life and work.

Communication between people involves four dimensions of behaviour:

Physical – The health and fitness of our bodies and how effectively we are able to move and function in the world.

Emotional – Our feelings about ourselves and our own circumstances. Also how we feel about other people with whom we share our lives and the environment in which we live.

Intellectual – The knowledge and information we have acquired and refer to in order to live and work effectively.

Spiritual (or Motivational) – Our deepest values, drives, ideas and beliefs about ourselves and how we fit in the world we live in.

My understanding and experience has led me to understand that we function most effectively when these four dimensions are fully integrated. That’s why I became interested in a recent survey by the CIPD in the UK measuring engagement.

Their research suggests that engagement has three components:

Cognitive engagement – focusing very hard on work, thinking about very little else during the working day.

Emotional engagement – being involved emotionally with your work.


Physical engagement – being willing to ‘go the extra mile’ for your employer and actively ‘do’ work over and beyond expectations.

In this survey only 31{a61c4e1b991c7f3a090c87cb66410712d4121fe18ab0f6421d85cbe80290558f} of employees who responded were found to be cognitively (Intellectually) engaged, and 22{a61c4e1b991c7f3a090c87cb66410712d4121fe18ab0f6421d85cbe80290558f} were/are actually disengaged.

Scores for emotional engagement were higher with 58{a61c4e1b991c7f3a090c87cb66410712d4121fe18ab0f6421d85cbe80290558f} of people reportedly emotionally engaged with their work and only 6{a61c4e1b991c7f3a090c87cb66410712d4121fe18ab0f6421d85cbe80290558f} emotionally disengaged.

And finally 38{a61c4e1b991c7f3a090c87cb66410712d4121fe18ab0f6421d85cbe80290558f} of employees were physically engaged with their work, whilst 11{a61c4e1b991c7f3a090c87cb66410712d4121fe18ab0f6421d85cbe80290558f} were/are physically disengaged.

So that leaves one component (or dimension) missing.

Spiritual (or Motivational) engagement – Our personal values, beliefs and drives that generate the energy to engage with life and work.

Arguably the most important dimension of all, as our motivation is indelibly linked with our emotions and the way we feel day to day.

Research into engagement has revealed that the emotional climate in an organisation has a profound affect on employee engagement. In fact it has been suggested that ‘Climate’ (or atmosphere in the workplace) is responsible for 80{a61c4e1b991c7f3a090c87cb66410712d4121fe18ab0f6421d85cbe80290558f} of the negative or positive effects on engagement.

Simply put, people enjoy working with and for people who have a positive attitude and who make their employees or direct reports feel valued, heard, involved and cared for.

This means open and honest communication between employees, managers and leaders in order to build rapport and allow people to share ideas, have them heard and maybe even rewarded.

This includes celebrating peoples successes however small, showing team members appreciation and ensuring people have the skills and resources required to achieve their expected professional targets and goals.

Sounds simple enough but tricky to implement when so few people in leadership positions (according to studies) are trained in the behaviours of engagement.

But there is a fairly straight forward solution.

A simple behaviour of engagement that anyone can begin to develop right now is to increase your listening skills.

Most of us like people to listen to us if we have something to share, and if we are listened to we will automatically feel more ‘engaged’ with the person who is making the effort to listen.

Not only that but if the person actually hears our point of view and acknowledges the value in what we say our engagement quotient is likely to increase.

Taking listening skills to the next stage would mean an ‘Idea Sharing’ initiative across an organisation and at all levels of the hierarchy. Creating an opportunity for everyone to be listened to and hopefully heard.

In fact I have been engaged in organisational listening through idea sharing for some time now in my work with creativity and innovation and have discovered that while people ‘brainstorm’ around a product or service, other issues nearly always emerge and reveal surprising insights.

For example: say you are looking to help a team develop a new product range that builds on something already existing.

The most effective approach is to begin with getting people to talk through the facts about the current product and overall context in which this product exists and into which the new product will potentially follow. This means taking a multi perspective look at the product idea and the context in which it will appear and this is when it is helpful to take the four dimensional approach.

The initial exploration will include all the Physical aspects like shape, form, materials used, packaging, texture, ingredients and ergonomics. Also talking through people’s ideas and experiences of how the product physically moves through the business from manufacture to supply chain, then into the hands of the customer.

The next dimension is the Emotional impact of the product’s branding for customers and employees alike. What types of emotions does it surface and how does it make people feel?

The Intellectual dimension – Where does it fit culturally, what immediate need does it meet technically and what other, unseen needs might it meet outside the obvious?

And finally Motivational – What value does it bring to people’s lives and how, why, where, when and to whom will it become most important?

To do this my team and I will work our way through a number of processes we have developed that utilises several tools to surface ‘values driven’ thinking styles. We work with the theory of Spiral Dynamics Integral (developed by Don Beck and based on the work of Clare W Graves) which means we are able to tap into the values and drives of each person attending an idea sharing session in order to get a unique perspective on an issue. There is plenty of information on the internet about the theory of Spiral Dynamics or you can refer to my article ‘Spiral Dynamics and Creativity’ (also published on Ezine) for an easy to read breakdown of the theory.

What is interesting about this particular approach is that if you thoroughly explore an idea from a values and drives perspective you will discover more than you expected about unexpected aspects of your business.

Occasionally during our sessions we discover that some people in organisations have ways of doing things that are perhaps unorthodox and occasionally break some of the rules. This would be described as ‘Orange’ value set behaviours in the SDi model and surface when there is a need for an individual to break away from the collective to creatively adapt to a given situation, in order to meet a need.

A person expressing ‘Orange’ will be focussing their energy on achieving results for material gain, status, success and recognition. However they are often forced into adopting these methods because the organisations infrastructure ( systems and processes) impede or stultify their ability to achieve their targets and goals by following the rules. The surprising thing is that these ‘unorthodox, rule breaking methods’ often go unnoticed.

How is that possible?

Because of the high levels of disengagement and lack of four dimensional engagement in many companies today. In other words… too few people care enough to tell anyone!

But it is often in these improvised, unorthodox, Orange ways of doing things that future innovations can be found and it’s becoming clear that what businesses today need are new and innovative ways of doing things.

The good news is that all the new ideas are in the hearts and minds of some if not all of an organisations people. But with up to 75{a61c4e1b991c7f3a090c87cb66410712d4121fe18ab0f6421d85cbe80290558f} of employees disengaged at work how are these ideas ever going to be discovered?

A good start is to get people talking together about what they value and what drives and motivates them in all four dimensions.

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