Becoming engaged in an age of one-night stands

One of the services we offer is to run surveys for our clients which determine the extent to which staff are engaged with their roles. We call it a Talent Engagement Survey, and at the centre of it is a finely tuned, factor analysed, set of questions which measure engagement. We had a debate at the office the other day, should we call it a Talent Engagement Survey or a Talent Satisfaction Survey? I had to digest that question for a few moments before answering. “Well”, I said, completely inappropriately, “Satisfaction is what you might experience after a good one night stand, but engagement is what you experience in a good marriage”. We laughed, then grimaced. Later I started processing what I had said, and worked a bit harder to understand the difference between Satisfaction and Engagement.

There is nothing wrong with being satisfied with something, but it does suggest a level of superficiality. I can be satisfied with an ice-cream, but unlikely to ever be engaged with one. I could however be really engaged in a meal, a performance, or event. Engagement goes deeper than satisfaction. A satisfied employee might show up to work, do their job, go home and by all accounts, really like their job. An engaged employee is committed in a different way. They too show up for work, they do their job, they go home, but they may work late into the night putting finishing touches to a complex presentation and making sure its just right. They will use their social media to post about the company. They gush to their friends about what a great job they have, and how fantastic it is to wake up looking forward to work. These people are more than satisfied, they are engaged.

Creating an environment that produces engaged employees is not impossible. But it does take work. Talent Engagement comes from making contact with staff members as fellow travellers. Understanding that each person has a rich complex life outside of work. Understanding that people are more than warm bodies, they have opinions, needs, fears, complex living arrangements, crazy partners, weird hobbies and strange desires. In other words that each staff member is just like you. Complicated and human. In businesses where they get it wrong, staff are commoditized. They struggle to find their voice in a cacophony of other voices. They feel invisible, unrecognised, a lonely Smartie in a bulk sized Smartie box.

I feel confident after the that our Talent Engagement Survey would provide a real and profound scan of a client’s business. No business is perfect, and I know we’ll be able find the segments in the business that need some TLC. We’ll also seek out those areas working well so that others can learn from them. Overall, we come out with much more than a great diagnostic picture that reaches deep into the business. We’ll know that the information we provide is not flimsy or superficial. We’re not in it to measure satisfaction, but to mine for engagement. Why? Because engaged employees hang around. Satisfied employees wait for the right time to move on to the next stepping stone.

Dr Hilton Rudnick