I recently watched an entertaining TedTalk by Daniel Ariely. While Ariely’s style is engaging, his research is thorough. He’s done the hard work of gathering the necessary data to identify what constitutes effective employee engagement. I am emphasizing the science in Ariely’s work because when it comes to organizational behavior, we are frequently exposed to speculative philosophy. Ariely reveals the critical dimensions of employee engagement, namely, ‘Purpose, Autonomy and Mastery’, a term originated with Ariely and subsequently framed by Pink. Ariely shows us that, in the knowledge economy, pay alone won’t motivate us, we also need meaning, autonomy, creation, challenge, identity and pride.
In my experience of working with clients, large and small, for profit and not for profit, on four continents and across a many cultures, ‘Mastery’ is pivotal in building effective employee engagement. In summary, ‘Mastery’ animates ‘Autonomy and Purpose’. This comes in a number of forms, most notably practice or ‘on the job experience’. It also includes designed solutions that develop ‘mastery’, namely, mentoring and coaching, formal skills development and knowledge acquisition. In other words, talent development and not for its own sake because in order for ‘Mastery’ to be meaningful it must increase the top and the bottom line reduce costs and improve the customer experience. A talent development system that is best summed up as the strengthening and development of the problem solving capability of the organization.
In my experience, I have found that successful employee engagement is predicated on a rigorous approach to the design, build and delivery of talent development. Design begins with talent acquisition, which means hiring for both today’s needs and the future. Etched in my memory is Bill Gates challenge to managers at Microsoft to – ‘hire smarter than you’. Inherent in Bill’s mantra was the idea of future proofing the talent pool. While there is much to admire in Bill’s strategic foresight, it can’t stop there. The on-boarding process needs a Boot Camp designed to accelerate the impact of core competencies. The lag between the first day and business impact is critical in the ROI of an effective talent strategy. As the market landscape changes the organization will change with it and by extension the profile of the employee base. The business will need new and different competencies. Leaders, Managers and Employees need to be able to self assess their capabilities and be able to opt-in or out of tailored solutions that are adaptive and flexible to meet to needs of the business. The focus on tailored solutions enables the business to deliver specific solutions in response to business demands to all levels of the organization but in particular to the next generation of leaders. In my experience a rigorous approach to the design of talent development process will deliver ‘mastery’, which is a by-word for both effective employee engagement and the strengthening of the problem solving capability of the organization.
IMI has developed a new programme on Driving Employee Engagement that will enable you to measure, understand and activate the levels of engagement within your organisation,
Mark Keane is a part of the associate network of IMI. He specializes in Employee Engagement, Decision Science and Agile Scenario Planning. He has worked in complex multi-national environments across a diverse range of industry sectors and has expertise in Strategy, Leadership, Change, Talent and Organizational Design.