Employee engagement: Whose job is it?
When media companies talk about engagement, they're usually talking about their audience. But what about employee engagement? Media companies face several challenges with employee engagement. An informal survey of publishing executives reveals the three most vexing culprits:
1. The industry is evolving and changing rapidly.
What business are we in? How do we structure to support that business? What new technologies need to be put in place? How do we train our existing staff to take on new roles and skills? Can they?
If a prerequisite to employee engagement includes clear objectives and the resources to meet them, then our industry is not for the faint of heart.
2. Traditional boundaries between roles and functions are blurring.
Several of my clients are wrestling with what I call the transition from the "three-legged stool" to the "vibrating-reclining-convertible-lounge-chair-with-cup-holder." It used to be that everyone understood their place and purpose in the media organization. If you asked, "Who is responsible for our relationship with the reader?" then Editorial would raise its hand.
Now, there are any number of overlaps (and subsequently, gaps) between and across Edit, Sales, User Interaction, Audience Development and other groups. Everyone's got an opinion and - arguably - the expertise to back it up in new ways.
If a prerequisite to employee engagement is having the opportunity and responsibility to take a leadership role, then a penchant for collaboration and sharing the spotlight is in order, not to mention the need for more sophisticated management of roles and functions that didn't exist yesterday.
3. Organizational culture can be conservative/slow to change.
Our traditions run long and deep - from the craft of journalism to the impressively Rolodexed sales executive. There are very good reasons for doing what we've been doing for decades, and employees are only too happy to enumerate them even as corporate success metrics decline in the face of those long-revered methods.
If a prerequisite to employee engagement is having a sense of pride and accomplishment in one's work, then an equally sharp sense of pride and accomplishment in learning new things and discarding the old (and quickly) is a must.
So how do we move as fast as the market requires?
We get better at engaging (verb) employees and we get better at hiring engaging (adjective) employees. I don't mean "engaging" in the sense that you'd invite them to your next cocktail party. I mean employees who are predisposed to engaging themselves in their roles, toward the goals of your organization and in this industry.
Your job AND their job
Intrinsic and extrinsic factors both come into play in motivation and engagement. Harnessing both is critical in this fast-evolving, collaboratively integrated and conservatively slow context. But engagement is not just the job of management. Every single employee should be accountable for his or her commitment and contribution to the organizational goals. It is absolutely a two-way street.
Here's a checklist to measure your company's level of engagement with employees:
1. Purpose: Does my organization have a clear and compelling direction that matters? If it does, do I know what it is? Does it matter to me? Is it communicated frequently? Do we actively measure progress against it?
2. Passion: Is every single person in the organization passionate about their role, the business and this industry? Am I? Does our hiring process ensure that new staff lives and breathes what we do here?
3. Talent: Are we aware of and do we make maximum use of what people are "best" at? Are we leveraging every individual's talents in the pursuit of our goals?
4. Courage: Do we have the courage to do what is right by the client? Is there room to think innovatively, structure differently, ask the tough questions and make bold changes?
5. Clarity: Are we clear about not only where we're headed, but how fast we need to get there, who does what, how decisions are made? And do we back it up with recognition for those who make the grade and consequences for those who don't?
6. Communication: Are we transparent in our decision-making and about out financial health and strategic challenges? Are we respectful in our interpersonal relationships? Are we consistent? Do we invite and encourage two-way exchange of information?
7. Appreciation: Have we said "thank you" to the people who are helping us succeed?
8. Accountability: Do we hold people accountable for the "bag" they are assigned? Are performance metrics clear? Is it clear what happens when they are not met? Am I meeting my own metrics?
Engagement matters. It is definitively linked to productivity, profitability, customer satisfaction, innovation and retention. I've compiled these questions drawing from the latest research in motivation and engagement. The answers matter.
An expert in the art and science of motivation, management, and meaningful work, Julie Lynch brings over 20 years of experience in executive and management development, employee performance and organizational effectiveness. Her firm, Uncommon Consulting, specializes in facilitating the development of outstanding organizations and teams and has the unique distinction of serving as Master Trainer for Motivation Factor®: the remarkable new framework for achieving lasting motivation and engagement.