Secrets of Employee Engagement – The Source May Surprise You!

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Author Bio

The Secrets of Employee Engagement: How Purpose Can Lead to Improved Employee Satisfaction

I’ve reported back a little last week about the recent HCI Employee Engagement conference in Denver. It was an outstanding event, and I felt compelled to highlight the great insights I heard during a passionate panel presentation entitled “Driven by Purpose: Tools, Tips, and Tricks on Employee Engagement from the Public Sector”.

Moderated by Vince Vu from the Performance and Strategy function at King County, an interesting point arose early in the session. King County believes that government has an unfair advantage in employee engagement! Imagine that! “What could it be?” you could feel the room wonder…

The answer was purpose.

The reasoning is that people aren’t drawn to the public sector to become wealthy. They join and stay because they are truly dedicated to making a difference.

Throughout the panel discussion, a number of wonderful insights followed, and so I jotted them down to share:

  • Unlock purpose: You can achieve extraordinary results if you can “unlock purpose” and marry that to the mission of the organization. There is also momentum to this strategy, as it is a key factor to maintaining engagement when leadership changes (which it can do frequently, and radically in the public sector)
  • People development is key: One government organization had put in a big effort for learning and development platform. What happened? They found that despite perceived lack of traditional career paths (i.e. climbing the corporate ladder), employees really value being developed because they know that this means citizens start to receive great service! This is a great point. Being able to link engagement to business outcomes is a high-level goal for many organizations, and this was evidence given to support the idea of linkage.
  • Belief and sincerity matter more than value: King County has found a strong correlation between believing action will be taken (i.e. belief amongst employees, with respect to engagement survey efforts) and results/impact. In addition, they established that effectiveness in recognition has little to do with the “value” of the recognition/reward, but rather the sincerity with which it is bestowed
  • There are three “unsung indicators”: At the US Dept. of Health and Human Services, their survey is a future indicator about who they want to be. In this, they have found 3 items are critical:
    1. Setting goals
    2. Effective communications (strong linkage between high effectiveness and engagement!)
    3. “I believe results [of the employee engagement survey] will be used to make this a better place to work.”

In a follow-up comment to the last point, it was revealed that the US Dept. of Health and Human Services found that once more than 50 percent of an employee population “believes”, people start to co-create the environment they want! They get active participation and traction.

This was not the first instance of belief in action being a major motivator and driving force, and of course this ties in directly to sincerity and communication.

You may not have thought to look to the Public Sector for lessons in employee engagement, but after sitting in on this session, I can confirm that their thinking and leadership in this area is a place we can all look to for inspiration.