Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Staff engagement mini rant

I don't know if it's a failure of communication or a failure of an individual to get a point, but I got quite upset over something a week or so ago.

We've been looking a lot at employee engagement and I absolutely agree it is vital to have a cohesive team who are in it together, buy into the overarching goals of their employer etc. However, there is a part of me that wonders if some people aren't too focussed on the bottom line. Our head of HR made a point of sharing with us that staff engagement has to be real. It can't be cynical, manipulative attempt to get more "profit" out of your team.

Great, OK. On board with that.

Later I heard someone talking about staff engagement1 and their phrase was as follows:

Sometimes your team will tell you they're giving it all they've got, that they're working as hard as they can. But then you've got to think of Wikipedia. [here they diverted to talk about the story behind Wikipedia - to whit a group of people volunteering their time to produce, well, Wikipedia. They concluded their speech with] and if people with a full time job can use their personal time to develop Wikipedia, you can't tell me that our staff are really giving it all they've got! We aren't getting their discretionary time.

I was so upset about this. Firstly, that's clearly a cynical attempt to use staff engagement principles for your own profit, using a measure that *exclusively* states that you, as an employer, have the right to determine if your employees are working hard enough by saying that not taking the job home with them is evidence that they aren't committed.

I'm pretty sure that's illegal.

Secondly, people need to stop referring to Wikipedia as their benchmark. Sure, there were and are some people who have spent hours every week contributing to the overall project for years. But the *vast* *overwhelming* majority of the site was built by thousands (possibly millions) of people who are passionate about one small tiny thing (or Star Trek) and they have been contributing in small chunks periodically since then. Or they logged on once, wrote an article and never went back. Or they fixate on one article and review it every time they learn something new.

There is no fixed model. There is no one way to contribute. There is no commitment required.

You take all of that away from your employees and you will see much more clearly who is engaged.

Of course, what you're missing is that you can't run your business on Wikipedia's principles because all Wikipedia's average customer needs is their servers and an internet connection.


1 It's a bit like buses. You never hear it then you hear nothing else for three weeks.

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