We created Talent Dimensions to leverage some of the best work from two power players in the talent development, engagement and diversity sectors. Dr. Beverly Kaye’s Career Systems International (CSI) and Linda Stokes’ PRISM International, have decades of experience and thought leadership in the career development, employee engagement and retention, and diversity and inclusion spaces. Building on this amazing foundation of work, our goal is to create new thinking that explores the intersections of these areas and examines the evolving role of leadership in driving individual and organizational performance.
We realize there is a lot of great thinking out there around these topics. You can bury yourself in Google searches and discover treasure troves of information. Our approach is to combine what we have learned from our client work with the most compelling research to identify and understand the interdependencies, intersections and overlaps of diversity, inclusion, engagement and development. Leveraging those overlaps, intersections and interdependencies is the key to unleashing the limitless potential of individuals and organizations.
This article is the first installment in a series where we will continue this exploration and share our discoveries. Please join us for the journey.
Let’s start with engagement. A big part of our heritage at CSI is about how organizations can Get Good People to Stay. If you are wondering where you heard that, it’s the tagline for the book Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em, now in its 5th edition. Authored by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans the original edition was published in 1999 and has been utilized by organizations and leaders around to globe as they struggle to address engagement and retention issues.
The book is cleverly organized using the English alphabet to chronicle 26 practical engagement strategies for managers. Busy managers can read chapters in order or move quickly to topics for just in time help. Readers might begin with ‘A’ Ask: What Keeps You, move on to ‘C’ Careers: Support Growth, or dive into the ‘J’ Jerk: Don’t Be One chapter for help in correcting some “high risk” behaviors they may be exhibiting. Bev and Sharon created an incredibly user-friendly resource to help managers understand what their people want from their leaders and workplaces – and what they need in order to engage with and be committed to their work.
Let’s talk more about employee engagement…or maybe you are thinking, let’s don’t talk about it. Depending on what survey or report you read, the numbers aren’t great. Gallup recently shared that the percentage of employees who report being engaged at work is up to 34%, tying the highest score since they began capturing this data in 2000. While that figure may be the highest achieved so far, 34% wasn’t even close to a passing score when I was in school and I’m not sure this is something to really get excited about.
Gallup defines engaged employees as those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace. Another definition refers to employee engagement as the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals. When employees care – when they are engaged – they apply discretionary effort.
Let’s go back in history to better understand how employee engagement got its start and how it’s evolved. William Kahn, professor of Organizational Behavior at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, holds the unofficial title of founding father of employee engagement. Kahn defined the term ‘employee engagement’ as the ability of an individual to harness his/her full self at work and identified three psychological conditions that must exist to enable it:
- Meaningfulness: Does an employee find their work meaningful enough (to the organization and to society) to warrant them engaging their full self?
- Safety: Does the employee feel safe bringing their full self to work without risk of negative consequences?
- Availability: Does the employee feel mentally and physically able to harness their full self?
In an interview Kahn did for James Young in May of 2018 he talked about how the concept has evolved away from his original thinking. His focus was on “personal” engagement or the “harnessing of the person in the context of role performance,” with focus on the “thoughts, feelings and energies of who people are when they are at their best selves.” In fact, Kahn believes that today’s industry focus on how leaders can get people to work harder and produce greater discretionary effort on behalf of their organizations is a reversal of his original idea.
Let’s think about this for a minute. Remember a time when you struggled to find meaning in your work or even worse, you didn’t feel safe being your true self in the workplace. What if you spent significant energy keeping parts of yourself outside of your role at work? How did that impact you and your ability harness the best of YOU in the job? How do you think these things play out as you approach the work? Pat Wador’s 2016 HBR article, “Diversity Efforts Fall Short Unless Employees Feel That They Belong,” examines how diversity and inclusion efforts have largely failed. Wador points to belonging as the missing glue. She shares that she never interviewed a candidate who said “I am your X candidate, I fit that box.” Individuals are a collection of experiences, expertise, perspectives and values. Admittedly Wador herself doesn’t want to be seen only as the role she performs:
“I’m a woman, a mother, an artist, an HR professional, an athlete, dyslexic, and an introvert. I’m all of that and more — and I want to be able to bring my whole self to work. That is when I have the courage and motivation to speak up, to go beyond my comfort zone.”
Pat Wador’s ability to bring all her “selves” to the workplace allows her and empowers her to be her best self – the full and complete self that leverages the diversity of all her selves to reach personal levels of performance that support organizational success and achieve personal goals.
What would it mean if our focus on engagement was more about how Kahn defined it – more about an employee’s ability to harness their “full self” at work? What could we unleash?
1Source: Forbes 2012: What is Employee Engagement, Kevin Kruse
2 Heroes of Employee Engagement: No.9