Leaders get employee engagement wrong. Activism should be the goal.
Engagement is aiming at mediocrity. Even with a low aim, leaders are missing the goal in a big way. Weber Shandwick, in partnership with KRC Research, surveyed 2,300 employees worldwide and found that only 30% are deeply engaged with their employer. This is a statistic many leaders will ignore while employees know it is true. This is the gap that exists in corporate cultures today.
Engagement versus Activism
Engagement is a step up from just showing up. Engagement is a promise to do something and, generally, leads to acting in a way to deliver on that promise. Doing this will usually entail working with others, moving toward achieving a common goal.
Nothing is wrong with this approach. It just seems minimal or performing at expectation.
Activism is a more positive and energetic way. While engagement likely embraces just doing what we are told to do, activists push the boundaries to get unexpected positive results. Activists lead with a problem-solving mindset and a collaborative spirit.
Activists are doers and challengers.
What Leaders Get Wrong about Engagement
There are two things leaders get wrong when it comes to employee engagement. The first was already highlighted – they aim too low. The second is leaders do not create an environment for activists to succeed.
The Weber Shandwick report entitled Employees Rising: Seizing the Opportunity in Employee Activism highlights four ways to drive activism in the workplace:
- Internal communications
- Employee development
- Corporate social responsibility
No real surprises here. These four elements are embedded in business models like Conscious Capitalism. Leading with purpose and profit are intertwined and leading by setting a good example and empowering other leaders to realize their potential are commonplace. These elements form the foundation for an activist culture.
Here is the problem. Moving from engagement to activism may require a different leader than is present today. For example, the two statements below must be true to realize this activist model:
- An openness to let people pursue initiatives and solve problems creatively are elements of what a modern leader would embrace.
- A supportive culture encouraging positive involvement and representation in industry trade associations or other applicable social communities is evident.
This is what Ted Coiné and Mark Babbit highlight in their book A World Gone Social.
Being a social leader is a must today, especially to cultivate an activist culture.
Why Move to Employee Activism?
When employee engagement is at such low levels, why should we even focus on employee activism? A good question.
The reason is simple. First, we need to raise the bar above the hurdle level. We need to focus on making the high jump in an activating our culture and results. Second, the incoming class of employees will expect it and even demand it.
I believe people generally want to make their organization be the best one in the marketplace. I believe people generally want to use their talent in an active, complete way to advance their team and company mission and vision. Unfortunately, too many managers and leaders beat their spirit into a confining mold.
We need to step up our leadership call and create a culture of activism.
The topics of being a modern leader and creating an activist culture are extremely interesting to me. More than my personal interest, this is what will be required to be successful in the next 5, 10, and 15 years ahead.
Bring generations together to craft a better way forward is essential. Doing this will support and challenge Millennial leaders to refresh the way we activate our workplaces and communities.
A fitting mission for the Thin Difference community, right?
More to come over the next several months as more reading, interacting, and thinking are put into this new way to lead and create. What are your thoughts?
- What will empower an activist within a team and organization?
- What characteristics will be required to be a modern leader and moving beyond an engagement mindset to an activist one?
- What are the dangers of this new model?
Join in with your thoughts below or send me your thoughts. Thank you in advance!
Join the Conversation
Why Leaders Get Employee Engagement Wrong
Activism requires an ownership mindset…. Not literally, ownership of the company but ownership of their output, thoughts and ideas. It also requires trust from organizational leadership to not put so many policies and procedures in place that activists are squelched from day one on the job. Briefly participated on the SocialLeader chat on this topic today. Interesting raising of the bar on engagement… definitely a call to action for employees and leaders everywhere.
Thanks, Alli, for your insights. Ownership of our output is vital and leaders need to empower this mindset and approach. I wish I could have attend the #SocialLeader chat on this topic but will need to read the transcript. Moving to activism is a leadership challenge we need to embrace and engage. Thanks! Jon
What will empower an activist? Encourage & equip people to be leaders, even if they aren’t managers, even if they don’t want to ever become a manager. Let everyone within the organization see their role, whatever it may be, as an opportunity to serve and to lead.
Agree, Daniel. Companies must put the foundation in place to equip everyone to be a leader and then provide opportunities for their talents to be used fully. People are capable… may just need the nudge through training and a stage of opportunity. Thanks! Jon