Busting employee engagement myths

There are a lot of buzz words bandied about organisations these days, as HR works to maximise employee productivity levels. However, Bernard Coulaty, International HR Leader, Author and Speaker shares that each term cultivates specific employee actions.

What is the number one myth when it comes to employee engagement?

One of the biggest myths in my view is the confusion of what constitutes “satisfaction”, “motivation”, and “engagement”.

These words are often used in daily managerial life with some confusion regarding their real meaning. Being satisfied and engaged are far from the same thing, and each attitude creates very different results! From my own experience, there is a hierarchy in the definition of what characterises employees’ commitment to the organisation:

Are they “satisfied”? Are they happy with their job and the level of their rewards, and do they like the workplace?

Are they “motivated”? Are they eager to learn and develop themselves within the organisation and do they intend to stay?

Are they “engaged”? Are they committed to the company’s goals and values; are they rationally and emotionally attached to the organisation, and are they ready to invest the extra effort to ensure the business’s success?

One of my favourite discussions with operational managers is when it comes to deciding yearly salary increases. Each year, one of them will state, “The level of salaries and rewards in my team are not motivating” and I often answer, “You mean they are not satisfied, don’t you?” Beyond semantics, it is important to differentiate the words. Preventing dissatisfaction is not the same as increasing motivation!

Bio Brief

Bernard Coulaty is a senior global HR leader with over 20 years of professional practice as a Vice President of HR in multinational organisations in Europe and Asia.

Strongly engaged within the business community, Coulaty is also President of the French Chamber HR Committee in Hong Kong and a member of the “Observatory of Engagement”.

He recently published The New Deal of Employee Engagement: A Sustainable Body-and-mind Engagement Model, and shares his passion for HR through lecturing in business schools and universities, and writing various articles in professional publications.

Many organisations invest substantial money and effort to boost engagement. Why can this still be a challenging issue for them?

For me, there are two issues that explain why organisations continue to face challenges and frustrations on the road to full engagement.

Firstly, it’s about the employer branding issue, and the gap between the Employee Value Proposition being “sold” to candidates who join the company and the internal reality. We all know that people leave people, not companies – you join a nice and appealing organisation because you believe in the values and culture you have heard of, and you “buy” the perspective to grow and develop yourself in such an environment. But then, reality knocks on the door: things such as internal relationships, managerial attitudes, the reality of your career progression, and opportunities or a lack of them to learn and develop set in.

Secondly, are HR systems engaging? Are they creating disengagement? What is the employee experience of these systems? Engaging the right employees with the right skills and behaviours is the key ingredient in managing business performance.

Tell us about the body-and-mind engagement model you have crafted.

The model I have designed in New Deal of Employee Engagement is a direct inspiration from my operational HR experience, and is at the crossroad of many disciplines: business performance, organisational efficiency, leadership development, HR management, individual psychology, “body and mind” approaches, and somatic and spiritual approaches. “Engaging” means engaging one’s physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual resources through an eco-system involving the individual and their environment.

The ambition in the model is to capitalise on both visions and propose an individual “Sustainable Body-and-Mind” approach of engagement, with practicable and actionable tools for both employees themselves and HR and business leaders. It also provides a strategic engagement framework (known as MOST), in which managers and organisations develop and sustain “engaged” selves and teams over time.

How is it different from the many other engagement models that have been proposed?

There are two major visions of engagement:

A “carrots-and-incentives” vision, based on the belief that people need to be engaged and pushed by their managers, by accurate reward policies, and by events within the organisation; and

A “whole self” vision, based on the view that people have a potential of engagement within themselves that can be mobilised not only by policies, but also by acknowledging their uniqueness as individuals and their potential to be self-engaged.

Most models take the point of view of the organisation only. What I have tried to do is to target all actors including the organisation, managers and leaders, teams, and individual employees. This is a holistic model targeting employees themselves, defending their point of view through a deep dive into all dimensions of their “self”, for a better understanding of what is driving their own quest and engagement in their working and personal lives.

What can the audience expect from your Power Talk at HR Summit and Expo Asia 2017?

An increased awareness of three dimensions:

Driving an engagement agenda means leveraging strategic and individual dimensions

Engagement is about actors (individuals, teams, managers, and organisations) and systems (strategies, processes,  and transactions)

HR systems should be more “engaging” to produce a better employee experience.

What are you looking forward to most during your session?

Engaging the audience myself!

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