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stairs-to-anspirition-4-clCompanies continue to evolve from old-school to new-school; from being mechanistic to humanistic; from having a command-and-control structure to an empowering one. Sometimes this evolution is expedited by changes in the external environment and sometimes by the induction of new management. As this sequence unfolds, companies move towards greater ‘employee engagement’ as a means of achieving sustainable profitability.

What is employee engagement? Put simply, it is when the company benefits from the heart and soul, and the passion and creativity of an employee, versus the one who drags himself in at nine and clocks out at five. Companies can no longer afford to host ‘warm bodies’ that occupy positions and go through the motions of the daily grind. Similarly, employees no longer want to work at places where they are not engaged as full human beings. Both sides need to put in their best efforts to make this happen.

The way it works is simple: the ‘Working Climate’ consists of leader, team and individual behaviour that makes up the culture of the organisation. Lots can happen here to enhance or hinder attaining an ideal environment – policies, processes and unseemly actions on the part of any of the players. So from the organisation’s point of view, they need to constantly monitor the internal climate and benchmark against other similar (or best-in-class) firms to see what needs fine-tuning. The ‘Working Climate’ is what determines employee engagement which, in turn, helps the firm attain business profits.

Employees are attracted by many other elements besides good wages in the overall ‘value proposition – career growth, learning opportunities, and a company’s attitude to Corporate Social Responsibility. Unfortunately, far too many companies spend their money and energy on systems, equipment, fancy offices and perquisites, and not enough on engendering the right climate.

On the other hand, employees too, need to keep up their end of the bargain for the whole thing to work. This involves living the company’s values, being responsible citizens, fostering a positive environment – and not just leaving everything up to ‘management’. My experience indicates there is a lot more that employees can (and should) do in this regard instead of moaning and whining.
Research and common sense will tell you that greater employee engagement results in better business performance through delighted customers and a better safety record.

– Leon Menezes
The writer is a senior HR practitioner, professor-of-practice and an executive coach.

First published in the Careers Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on April 20, 2014.