The conversation on Employee Engagement has matured, or soured, to now include more subtle methods to harness a more engaged workforce.
I wrote recently that Employee Engagement needs a better lexicon. Here's a precious example.
Yes.What the world needs now isn't love, sweet love but many more subtle methods to harnessing a more engaged workforce.
Words have meaning, that's why we speak them or avoid them. (This is an insight of the obvious kind, so obvious we sometimes forget it; I do anyway.) Nothing speaks subtlety like the word harness. Let's consider the term Harness. As a noun, Google defines it as:
1.a set of straps and fittings by which a horse or other draft animal is fastened to a cart, plow, etc., and is controlled by its driver.
As a verb, Google writes:
2. control and make use of (natural resources), especially to produce energy. "attempts to harness solar energy"What about attempts to harness employee engagement?
Dictionary.com defined Harness as follows.
Noun. the combination of straps, bands, and other parts forming the working gear of a draft animal. Compare yoke1(def 1).
Verb.gain control over for a particular end.
Yeah, not so good then with employee engagement.
See control and employee engagement don't go together. They're mutually exclusive. So are terms that bring images of over-burdened draft horses pulling heavy loads with a driver standing in the seat, a whip in his hand and yelling: Gee, Yip. C'mon pull and then the whip comes down on the draft horses.
Then, again if you want a visual image of too many corporate cultures, you can replace the horses with employees and the driver with the manager, the whip with text and email and writeups. Close enough.
If employee engagement and control worked together, then given our popular, top-down, command-and-control business hierarchies and models our employee engagement would be through the roof. But it's not.
Words like Harness ... they reveal too much about the speaker's intent with regards to employees.
That being said, we're all learning as much what to say and how to say it as we learn things to do and when to do them. The lexicon for Employee Engagement is a big challenge. There's too much history, embedded bias of hierarchy, employees as unthinking cogs, us - the good kids vs them-the bad 'uns.
When you get down to it, employee engagement is a we thing. There's no room for 'they' in 'we.' For many cultures and organizations that simple statement hides the many choices, many of them tough, that each person needs to make in order to engage, to volunteer, to bring to their A-game everyday and insure others are able to bring their A-games, too. One choice is to not use terms like ... harness.