Why Engagement is the Wrong Word
I was engaged once. It was 1988 and in between a course of sweetbreads and lamb at the Millcroft Inn in Alton, Ontario, the blue-eyed guy across from me popped the question. I looked at the ring, and I looked at him, and I said, “yes”. In other words, I said (on the inside), “I find you very attractive, I have no idea how this story might end, but yes, I think there are good odds here and I’m game to give it a shot”. After all, we were very young, we had no money, but we had high hopes for the future. We set a date.
During engagement, you buy an expensive dress you’ll never wear again, and you fuss over the strange details of a hopefully once-in-a-lifetime ceremony. You drive your friends and family crazy. Then once the engagement is over and you’ve settled in, you find true happiness.
I’ve thought about this as it relates to the workplace.
Do we need engagement? Or do we need that sense of settling in and happiness?
I think it is the latter.
I’m not sure we are at our best during the engagement. There are reasons why there are TV shows about bridezillas. There is frenzied anticipation and many, many details. There are a lot of things to balance, with time always seeming to be at a premium. Our goal is to have a lovely wedding. We fret at not being able to see much beyond that day. It is when the engagement is over that we have a routine and new goals and a longer-term outlook. We fall more deeply in love with our spouse. That’s happiness.
I fully realize that not everyone on the engagement bandwagon agrees with me. They argue that an engaged employee is not necessarily a happy employee and they argue that a happy employee may be happy because their work isn’t challenging, which doesn’t benefit the business. Ok, fair enough. That said, perhaps I’m being overly technical but the definition of engagement does not include the word motivation (in fact, appointment is a synonym for engagement). Ultimately, motivation is another positive side effect of being settled in to a role where you have confidence. Again, during engagement you are not settled in yet.
So how can you achieve a workplace full of happy people? Try these strategies:
- Find ways to include your employees in long-term planning. So often we set short-term goals in our planning without thinking about how this contributes to the big picture. The more employees can see themselves in your organization 3, 5, 7 years down the road, the more likely they will contribute in ways that will ensure the organization is sustainable.
- Love your organization. Love your employees. I’m talking to you HR. Some of the best organizations out there have amazing programs not only for current employees but also alums. Make it a family atmosphere full of positivity and mutual respect by focusing on programs designed to be supportive of the whole employee, at 24 and 64. The workplace should feel safe and a place to find your centre. This can’t happen in a place where there isn’t an environment of mutual trust.
- Lessen the distractions. People focus best when they aren’t surrounded by a myriad of distractions. They’re happy when the details are set. If that means organizing central pick up for dry cleaning, providing access to a concierge service or being more flexible about work arrangements, go for it.
If you think of your employees after the engagement, the onboarding, all that preliminary stuff, and make the workplace feel like an extension of home, you’re well on your way to achieving workplace happiness.
About the author: Bonni Titgemeyer is the Managing Director of The Employers’ Choice Inc. She has been in human resources for 20+ years and works in the international HR arena. She is the recipient of the 2012 Toronto Star HR Professional of the Year Award. You can connect with Bonni on Twitter as @BonniToronto, often at the hashtag #TEPHR.