I read a great article today by Mitch McCrimmon on the Management-Issues website. What I appreciated most about the author’s approach is that he separated engagement into four distinct levels. I think this is an important way to view engagement, and one that management should take a moment to consider.
I suspect a number of leaders look at engagement as an “all or nothing” venture. In other words, a company should either embark on a massive internal communications initiative to engage all of its employees at the highest level or just sit back and hope for the best. Unfortunately, we can assume from survey data and research that many companies opt for the latter approach.
Thankfully, and particularly in these times when resources are so tight, McCrimmon offers an alternative: aim for something in between. To this end, he summarizes four levels of engagement that cover everything from meeting basic needs to welcoming bottom-up leadership.
Here, in a nutshell, is what McCrimmon has to say about levels of engagement:
Level One: Basic Engagement
A basic level of engagement uses motivational factors we have known about for decades, such as clear direction, good supervision, empowerment, career development, open communication, recognition and creating a great place to work. Such initiatives all involve doing something for employees, however, and are thus paternalistic.
Level Two: Employees as Suppliers of Services
A deeper level of engagement requires a culture that encourages employees to think of themselves as running their own businesses, as suppliers of services. Most organizational cultures, being paternalistic, take far too much responsibility for developing people.
Level Three Engaging Leadership
Level three engagement requires a deeper culture change because it asks managers to fundamentally reframe how they see their roles. It goes beyond level two engagement by encouraging managers to be more proactive in seeking input from employees but it also puts more pressure on employees to do more thinking and be less content to merely follow directions.
Level Four: Beyond Ownership to Passion
Level four engagement involves an even more significant culture change. Now, instead of viewing employee ideas merely as good suggestions, their contributions are reframed as bottom-up leadership.This move engages employees by making them feel a stronger sense of providing direction to the organization, or at least a small part of it.
While companies may lack the time, money, or infrastructure to ever get to the highest level of engagement, it is important to know there are interim levels of success and that it’s worth whatever effort can be made.
I highly recommend reading the full article, for further insights.