Engagement. It’s the hottest business buzzword. Businesses are not just talking about engagement, they have begun to integrate it into job titles: Strategic Engagement Manager, Community Engagement Advisor, Senior Manager Engagement Services.
It doesn’t matter whether you have a marketing, engineering, accounting or human resource background, chances are you know at least one peer who’s now focused on engagement.
Over the last decade, we have seen the shift of engagement in the workplace from being an adjective describing one’s connection to their company into a verb focused on the active pursuit of rallying people around a cause or a focus.
As I see it, engagement has three primary focuses: Involvement, Connection and Collaboration.
How do you stand out in a crowd when everyone wants to attract your time, attention, resources and money? Whether it’s a community interest group, a charity, a business association or a university, we have so many options to choose from. Many organisations have now dedicated people and sometimes whole departments focused on attracting your attention to ensure you pick them over another option. They want to engage you, to count you amongst their own.
It’s easier to move through life when we have the opportunity to do our best work every day. While many companies talk about building engagement, in reality it’s an internal choice. Do I feel enough of a connection to my company, my boss, my job that I choose to give my discretionary effort? Where I have the option of spending my time and energy pursuing something that drives my passion, is this the place/cause/opportunity that engages me?
“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much” – Helen Keller
Collaboration is engagement in action. When you have the opportunity to interact with equally motivated and like-minded individuals within a workplace, community, or any other type of endeavor, opportunities abound. There is a richness of ideas which percolate when you bring together varied contributors and points of view.
The global financial crisis and the contracting of companies have now brought engagement into a top of mind pursuit for many companies. They are looking within their organisations to ensure they have attracted the best and the brightest. Increased national and international competition has them trying to maintain market share or to carve out new niches where they can dominate. Most are pursuing Involvement and Connection as strategies for building engagement. Social media has become a tool to build communities and to begin or solidify the engagement model.
However, the future of work suggests that we are only just scratching the surface of engagement. The key to real engagement is in Collaboration. It is the opportunity to bring together connected and engaged individuals within companies, communities or causes to work on complex and diverse business pursuits and issues. Collaboration is no longer just happening within one workplace or one geographic area. Technology is allowing for real time collaboration and shared databases which support international endeavours and think tanks.
The danger is in looking at the three faces of engagement in a linear fashion. Building a community of interest without developing a meaningful dialogue, asking for input or engaging others in problem solving may see your support base erode before you learn how to tap its potential. Facebook Likes, Twitter Followers and Linked In connection statistics alone will not strengthen the engagement in your brand. Similarly, the efforts of managers to increase engagement without ensuring you have the right people on the bus and that they have the opportunity to pursue meaningful work will only frustrate commitment levels.
If you want to be a world class organization, your strategy needs to start with collaboration. Knowing why collaboration is important to your business will help define your commitment to building connections and communities of involvement towards shaping a dynamic future.