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Achieving extraordinary levels of engagement

September 27, 2010

98% feel a strong sense of commitment to the organisation they work for. 95% would recommend it to a friend or family member as a great place to work. 96% feel a strong sense of loyalty to their colleagues.

Given what we hear about low levels of engagement in most workplaces, are such high scores possible? And if they are, how are they achieved?

They certainly are possible. They form part of a report we've just prepared on a survey we've recently carried out among volunteers who work for one of the UK's largest and most respected charities.

The main part of the survey focused on various aspects of a major policy change which is being considered. A change which may not be particularly popular as there may be financial repercussions for some. As a result there had been concern among the management team about possible knock on effects on both recruitment and retention of volunteers. Hence the survey and hence the inclusion in it of a number of items testing respondent opinion in relation to their commitment to and engagement with the organisation.

So in a way it was all the more remarkable that despite the possibility of unpopular changes, the respondents' loyalty and commitment turned out to be undiminished. Why? What c an we learn about engagement form this organisation?

First we must acknowledge that this is a charity, and the respondents are volunteers. So a direct comparison with a normal employer is perhaps not absolutely fair. Nevertheless, many of the individuals concerned do commit to fulfilling specific duties and responsibilities at specific times and their relationship with the organisation is in many way analogous to that of an employer.

Whichever way you look at it, these scores are extraordinary. The key reasons for it seem to be

  • Belief in the purpose / goals of the organisation - and great clarity about what those goals are
  • A working / physical infrastructure which has been carefully developed - the volunteers have exactly the right tools for the job and are well trained
  • A rock-solid team ethos where volunteers work together, trust and depend on each other in every situation
  • A culture in which individuals' and team efforts are constantly acknowledged and valued
  • Management who see their primary role as facilitating, nor directing: job holders are highly trained, know what to do and how to do it - management sees its primary role as being there to support and enable them
  • Regular and consistent performance feedback
  • Pride in being associated with the organisation - which enjoys a high level of public esteem

It's against these (and some other) yardsticks that the engagement measures were taken. It sounds almost too simple and in some ways it is. The effective management of organisations is, to a large extent, characterised by some quite simple principles. It's their execution which is difficult.

A useful first step in achieving this level of engagement is to carry out surveys which measure against two broad dimensions - on the one hand satisfaction with the practical elements above and on the other hand their commitment and motivation. It's the combination of the two which represents a real measure of engagement.

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