We recently overheard an HR professional say, “This year we’re going to do a better job of engaging our talent.” And given the chronically low statistics of employee engagement, that is probably a common sentiment. So how exactly do you do that?
It’s interesting that an engagement, in the English language, means both a betrothal and a battle: two vastly different and momentous human events that require an investment of heart and soul to achieve a successful outcome.
Then what does it mean to be engaged with your talent?
In an organizational context, talent engagement is usually measured by how much extra time and effort employees are willing to give beyond the minimum requirements of the job. As convenient as this measurement may be, it really doesn’t get at the “heart and soul” investment that defines true engagement.
Consider this assertion made by a leading HR consulting firm: Disengaged talent produces negative financial value because the revenue the disengaged produce rarely covers their total employment cost.
If this is true, and as long as true engagement is missing, organizations must resort to fear tactics and external motivators just to meet employment costs. But there is a choice. Rather than staying married to the strategies of the past, you can get engaged to the talent in your organization.
When organizations give employees opportunities to explore their talent as their self-expression, they tap their employees’ self-motivation to develop and deliver their skills. And, amazing things happen. For example,
• An overworked senior finance manager found both new ways to document what she knew by offloading routine tasks and to pursue her hopes for working on more rewarding, high-impact projects.
• An administrative assistant who wanted to become a manager didn’t buy into the “Catch 22” that she couldn’t manage people without management experience. Instead, she demonstrated her competence by doing research and writing a guide on how first-time managers can give effective performance feedback.
• A tech specialist figured out a path to become a “guru” in his organization. Now, he’s helping many others solve their toughest problems.
The power of true engagement may be easier to see in this equation:
Talent Opportunity + Engagement + Competence = Return on Total Talent
In this model Talent Opportunity is the space for full self-expression: the encouragement of each individual to make their own unique contributions to the success of the organization as well as for their own benefit. It requires a loosening of rigid organization machine models to allow for more creative individual contributions.
Engagement is a connection to your hopes and vision, being really “into” what you are doing, an authentic willingness to give your best, to put your heart and soul into something.
Competence is a ready skill set built on knowledge and experience.
Although each piece of this equation is critical, you can use them effectively in any order. You may give highly competent people opportunities to take on projects that are dear to their hearts or invite people to create their own projects that lead to the development of new competencies. Perhaps the ideal scenario for engagement is to find the place where the world’s great need and an individual’s great joy intersect. Imagine what that powerful combination will deliver.
These components — Talent Opportunity, Engagement, and Competence – define what we describe in the book “Take Charge of Your Talent” as your organization’s Return on Total Talent.
So, do you want to stay married to the past or get engaged with the talent in your organization?