Promoting staff engagement with the WHY question

Alongside industrialisation growth, company growth and competition came the research and theories on motivation and job satisfaction; Herzberg (motivation and hygiene) in the 1960s and Maslow's theory of motivation in the 1950s are two that stand out to me and in the 1990's the term

"Staff Engagement" came about in HR circles and it is still a relatively new concept and a topic that is explored in many "how to " articles on organisational leadership and management.

Ok, This the How & When.. 

It was William Kahn, Boston University professor of organisational behaviour who introduced the term "staff engagement" based on his observation that people have a choice as to how much of themselves they are willing to invest in their jobs.  Kahn discovered that engagement was evident when there is meaning and worth in what they do, their contribution is valued and there is a constant environment where they feel secure and self-confident.

The assumption is employee engagement can never be bought; it must be earned.  Compensation will always be a key component of job satisfaction, it's just not a factor as an every day motivator of engagement.  Companies now include staff engagement as a measurement for improvement, it is analysed to measure the level of trust, identity and commitment that is shown by employees. When staff are engaged in the workplace it is accepted as a good indicator to progress company growth.

We know that improving the staff engagement results in improved business outcomes and profit. 
So, where does staff engagement fit as a priority in a business? 

 It could be said that staff engagement practices are incorporated....but where and when?  Put simply, if I used 3 factors in a business, Purpose, People, Profit and gave each one its due priority, what impact would staff engagement have on business outcomes? 

For example, if the business put Profit first:
  • Profit, Purpose, People

  • Set the targets, work out the purpose and engage the people. A hurried strategy built more on a focus on the competition rather than confidence in the product or service. The leadership is an afterthought and because it is hurried the leadership style sends mixed messages and the workplace is unstable. Staff engagement requires more effort and more possibility of setbacks.

  • Purpose, People, Profit
Set up the purpose and convince the people of the purpose and lead to make the profit. A common management strategy that does have elements of success and the leadership spends a lot of time focused more on winning the staff over. Staff engagement is achievable, though staff investment depends heavily on the leadership focus to purpose and stable environmental factors.
  • People, Purpose, Profit
Engage the people for the purpose and see the profit. The focus is on growing your people, their personal and professional development has the makings of setting purpose with passion and business will grow, along with profit. Staff Engagement has a strong self motivating factor and leadership is dynamic and engaging.

Here is the - WHY question

What if PASSION was added to the staff engagement  and motivation contributing factors as per the research by Kahn, Herzberg, Maslow et al?

The term "passion" in the workplace is gaining momentum.  Passion, a strong emotion that causes you to have a belief and intention and are drawn to the work you want to do.  You do the work because of the passion you have for that job, career or vocation.  

Passion has sustainability and individual ownership. Passion does not require external factors to motivate and passion comes from a clear focus on who you are and what you want to do.   Passion is evident when you ask the WHY question.   

When I finished school ready for my next step into independence and choosing what field to study and what area to work in, WHY? was very important, way more important than, "how" or "how much".  "Why have I chosen to work with this employer?, "Why do I want to work in this field?". 
For some, it stops somewhere in our work life, it gets lost in the things we need to do and have to do and can be forgotten.  For others, it gains maturity and moves on to higher causes. 

Ask yourself WHY. "Why am I in this job?", "Why do I enjoy what I do?", "Why is it important for me to be doing this job?" Passion grows when you know the answers to your Why questions.  Passion is an under-utilised resource for staff engagement.

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