[Is Employee Engagement Really a Community Issue? – From Paul Hebert-VP Solution Design. Read more about him on our Leadership page.] Check out our new thought-leadership subscriptions options for 2014 here.
We (I) post a lot on employee engagement.
It is the new black (or is that orange?) Employee engagement is proving to be so elusive I hear they are making a new Indiana Jones movie where he searches for it with a newly minted SPHR. (BTW – dibs on the royalties if that ever happens.) Getting and keeping employees engaged has CEOs and HR Pros losing sleep and diving deep into the data.
To paraphrase Cartman… “How do I reach these employees?”
Maybe “we” don’t.
Maybe engagement isn’t something we do to employees but something we enable for them to do for each other? Maybe engagement is about community building and tools that help do that? After all – culture is nothing more than the community norms of an organization right? Building a culture is somewhat similar to building a community focused on specific goals and objectives.
And building a community can be more an exercise in psychology than in perks and benefits.
Way back in September I saved this post “The Science Behind Using Online Communities To Change Behavior” which starts out by stating:
Fortunately, there’s a science behind how to change behavior, and the answer to engagement and behavior change lies in understanding people’s psychology. By addressing people’s psychological needs and reasons for not changing behavior (including their social environments, cultural values, and emotions), we can be more effective at behavior change. Once we understand people’s psychologies, then technologies — online communities in particular — become really useful as platforms to rapidly change behavior.
The elements outlined in the article are ones that any organization can use to drive behavior change for their culture and their business outcomes.
Specifically they highlight:
The Need to Trust – The article states that when we trust people, we’re more open-minded, more willing to learn, and more willing to change our behavior. Getting people to share (including the Big Kahunas) is one way to begin the process. Without trust no change program will ever be truly effective.
The Need to Fit In – We all want to be at the cool kids table. Creating social norms influence our own attitudes and behaviors. Most people are willing to change their attitudes and/or behavior to fit these group norms and fit in with the community. You have to show that the behavior you want is the predominate behavior if you want people to see it as the “norm.”
The Need for Self-Worth – Your community (“program”) needs to provide support and positive messages. When people feel good about themselves, they are more open to change and feel empowered to be able to change their behavior.
The Need to Be Rewarded for Good Behavior – Providing reinforcement such as “liking” people’s communications when they immediately join a network, and then progressively spacing out the time that their posts are liked (psychologists call this variable reinforcement) can be incorporated onto social network platforms to encourage them to keep posting content. Eventually, these behaviors become habits. This is how all recognition programs ultimately work at the psychological level.
The Need to Feel Empowered – While increasing self-esteem makes people feel good about themselves, giving them the feeling that they actually CAN change is just as critical – the person needs to feel they have the power to make a difference. Being a part of a program/community getting things done reinforces that they have the power. Studies have shown that simply seeing progress in an effort is required for people to stay engaged in an activity.
My recommendation – look at your “engagement” activities through the lens of “community building” and incorporate some (heck – incorporate them ALL) into your planning and the infrastructure that supports your initiative. Regardless of the “reward” program you put in place – these psychological touch points will be invaluable as you move your culture (community?) in the direction that benefits them and your organization.
If you’re not sure how to do this – shoot me a note – our process incorporates all of these triggers so you’re sure to do it right the first time.
And you thought community building was only for politicians….