Colleague engagement scores are a long-standing feature of the corporate workplace. Having really hit the mainstream in the ’00s, they usually examine a range of factors to measure how, well, ‘engaged’ employees are in their work.
Engagement is a woolly term, and based on my experiences in the corporate environment, most managers have their own personal understanding of what it means. Although many engagement measures look at employee satisfaction with their job, the ultimate insinuation is that engaging colleagues can improve productivity.
When selling their services to corporate clients, engagement consultancies usually trot out data to show the effect they can have on the bottom line. At the end of the day, businesses are all about money, right? So if we can just somehow prove that satisfied colleagues make more money than miserable ones, then it’s an easy sell, isn’t it?
Maybe it’s just the right thing to do
I’m currently working on the branding of a ‘Happiness and Wellbeing at Work’ offer from social enterprise Helen Sanderson Associates. Based on decades of experience developing person-centred practices across a range of sectors, their work focuses on truly understanding what matters to people, and then creating practical plans to help them get there.
Their CEO, Helen (tweeting from @HelenHSAUK), has been very clear that they don’t use the word ‘engagement’. Instead, the offer is simply to create happier teams. Happiness is a much clearer term than engagement. Of course it follows that happier teams are also more productive; but the question is whether we really need to spell that out.
Any seasoned manager will have seen the difference between happy and unhappy employees. In my personal experience, happy colleagues are more enjoyable to work with, make better team members, and are more likely to stick around. I’ve seen it first-hand, and don’t need any productivity scores or bar charts to prove it. If anything, graphs and data tarnish the very concept of employee happiness. They transform a fundamentally valuable, universal and innately positive human emotion into something that should only be looked after because of its potential impact on company performance.
As I start to work on the branding for Helen Sanderson Associates’ ‘Happiness and Wellbeing at Work’ offer, I’m beginning to question the need for pseudo-science and dodgy engagement data. After all, measuring colleague engagement and linking it to productivity is notoriously difficult. But more importantly, if a leader is only interested in creating a happy working environment because they think it will make them more money, it’s unlikely that they will ever implement a truly ‘people first’ approach anyway. Doing this needs true buy-in from leaders, and it needs to be embedded at the heart of a company. It’s my belief that effective managers won’t need the benefits of creating happy teams to be sold to them. Instead, once they learn about what our offer is and how we can help them take practical steps to make happiness at work a reality, they’ll be sold already.