Jul 13, 2007

Employee Engagement and Organizational Citizenship

Prasad raises a good point by invoking a fable to reiterate the fact that if employee engagement is to succeed it should recognise and celebrate the essential nature of the parties involved.

This raises the disturbing point, that is employee engagement ever possible in organizations as we know them?

The one defining factor of organizations (no matter if they are new economy or old, clicks or bricks!) is that they put the individual subservient to the needs of the organization. As an old Japanese saying goes "The nail that stands out, always gets hammered in"

As Prasad says:

The defining feature of employee engagement is 'discretionary effort' put in by the employees. If employees have to get motivated to put in the 'discretionary effort', just speaking to them and telling them what is happening in the organization (and even just listening to them) won't be sufficient. To get discretionary effort, both the hearts and minds of the employees have to be engaged. Often this calls for interventions to improve the person-job fit, the performance management/rewards system and the organization culture. Of course, it is much easier to hold communication meetings than to ensure that employees are in those jobs that leverage and celebrate their key talents/abilities/interests! But if the objective is to have the type of 'employee engagement' that motivates employees to stay on and to put in discretionary effort, peripheral interventions (like communication meetings, 'fun & games HR' etc.) might not be sufficient.

So how do you know that employee engagement is truly taking place? Well, if employees are engaged, they exhibit Organizational Citizenship Behaviors which is a five dimensional contruct involving Altruism, Courtesy, Civic Virtue, Conscientiousness and Sportsmanship.

So according to this view, employee engagement should not really be the dependent on individual teams or managerial efforts. It should be a factor that is dependent on the individual. Trying to build employee engagement is therefore trying to also change individual values of people. How desirable is it?

These are questions that HR and OD people should be grappling with. As Peter Block said in the updated edition of Flawless Consulting, in Shadow Side of Consulting chapter, "who are we to arrogate ourselves the right to "intervene" into a system?"