Need engagement? Don’t communicate

I’ve posted along these lines before, but because the hot topic of engagement doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon, it’s worth a refresh–and this brief article from Forbes online make the point again.

Businesses seek engaged employees because the unleashed energy will drive the business farther and faster.  But the focus and energy of engagement aren’t the same thing as “happiness.”  If anything, they’re more like “hope.”

As the article mentions, one more team lunch at Olive Garden won’t do the trick, probably because that lunch will be seen as 1) the shallow gesture it is and 2) the time spent now means I’ll be getting home later.  So much for happiness.  People get energized about their work when they can see that their best efforts can make an important difference: product quality, business reputation, recognition, pay, new opportunities (and no, you can’t add “you get to keep your job” to that list).  People have to be hopeful their increased energy and investment will pay off for them.

Will a strategic communication campaign get that done?  Probably not.  As the Broadway song put it, “Don’t talk of June, don’t talk of fall — don’t talk at all! — show me!”  The goal is that employees have first-hand experiences of the effectiveness of their efforts and the responsiveness of their leaders and systems.  Communications can support those experiences, but it can’t deliver them.  
One of the most tried-and-true tactics to take when facing an unengaged workforce is to stop and ask people to articulate what’s grinding them down.  First, you get credit for listening.  Second, you’re likelier to get the solution right.  And be sure that “listening” doesn’t feel like just another employee survey.
Next time you have the urge to sink resources into that campaign-theme video, sit down until the feeling passes.  It could just be another kind of breadstick.


Who’s ready for BYOD?

Two articles: one a trend piece, the other a cautionary tale.

Shel Holtz, in the newest CW Magazine, talks about the “bring-your-own-device” culture that is emerging in the workplace:

“Some refer to this phenomenon as the consumerization of IT.  Others label it technology populism. . . Technology populism has weakened IT’s ability to keep the hatches battened down by simply controlling what people use.  What’s more, IT has been forced to deal with a growing demand among employees to use their personal devices—smartphones, tablets and more—at and for work.  BYOD has gained momentum among employees who would just as soon use their preferred technology as anything the company would give them.”

  • employees want to be able to access company assets (intranets, file servers) from their own devices
  • employees want their business apps (sales tools, logistics trackers) to go onto their personal devices
  • employees may NOT want to receive typical corporate communications this way
  • employees may not fully understand the risks they’re absorbing (lost unprotected devices, redistribution of proprietary info)

I carried around two phones for a while—mine and the company’s—and it sucks.  So BYOD is a trend that won’t reverse, especially after IT starts to report some cost savings.  But is someone in your business thinking through those implications and how to manage them into effective communications?
The cautionary tale is from DiversityInc.  They give an example of how hot—in this case, racist—election rhetoric can find its way into the workplace via technology.  It’s a very short distance from reading or downloading to discussing or, worse, forwarding.
IT, Legal, HR, division leadership and Communications are going to have to work on this together.  What should be your business’ first step?