Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Office: Office – Employee engagement

When was the last time you felt ‘engaged’ at work? Umm? Ahem…Hmmm.  (Is that even possible when its more engaging to follow social media and converge with your friends online? Well, let us momentarily put that aside). Maybe when your internship came to a close and you wanted to ensure they wouldn’t shut the door in your face when you came back seeking a full time job?

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How do you think the HR and Management feels when they realize everyone is pretending to be engaged? Pretty worried. Because someone is going to be fired over that sooner or later. So the naïve HR professionals will attempt several things – launching an internal survey whose results are ‘inconclusive’ (meaning you aren’t sure if the employee is pretending to be disengaged or is really disengaged), creating an action plan to drive conclusions (the one who shouts the loudest during these meetings is given the honor of driving the plan), and ensuring that the action plan is implemented (meaning, next time the survey is launched we will know for sure if employees are genuinely disengaged or pretending to be disengaged).

The smart HR professionals will admit that ‘we’ indeed have a problem (never mind the fact that they hired such employees in the first place). And so, ‘we’ need to solve it.  So, why don’t you start and we follow? What help do you want?

Eager to prove a point, the naïve management leader (the one who got to this position by piling on the years doing the same job) will ask for funding and get it. One month of sitting around with it and receiving two ‘gentle reminders’ from the HR about ‘outcomes’, he gets jittery and forms an employee engagement committee with 80% men and 20% women (you will know why very soon). The men debate about roles, responsibilities, ideas and basically how to take credit. The women take down action items, delegate all the work to themselves and mentally prepare to call their mothers over to baby sit the kids for the next 2 weeks.

Over the next week, the men hurl abuses at each other over the program agenda, some walk out in protest because the employee engagement event dates were confirmed without seeking their opinion. The women look like they haven’t slapped on under eye makeup or combed their hair. Most of them are on notebook two for recording the action items. No one seems to care that the other is wearing the same shoes three days in a row.

Come D Day and what have we? A Bollywood style entertainment program and celebrity guests. Three hours of song, dance is followed by prize distribution for the best handwriting, best potluck dish, Antakshari victors, and several other activities you thought people stopped participating in when you left middle school.
The outcome - ‘happy employees’ which equals ‘engaged employees’. (After all they sat in the auditorium for 3 full hours didn’t they? If this is not engagement, what is?).  

Everyone agrees and silently hopes no one will ask ‘why are employees disengaged at work?’