I Care, Therefore I Engage.

At the Employee Engagement Network, many are trying to find the root cause of engagement.

Curiously, a lot of the contenders start with the letter "c" for some reason, including:

Content - Meaning the content of the job, the work itself. For my feeling of engagement, this is a must. I am all about the work first.

Customer - They are the reason for the work.

Conditions - Conditions covers a whole gamut of things from the temperature in the office to having the flexibility to work from home as needed. Conditions can keep me engaged, or cause disengagement.

Communication - Having a free and open channel. Knowing what's going on. Not being surprised.

Community - Being part of something, whether a team, an organization, a network, or a movement.

Consideration - Being treated with respect. Being treated like a professional.

Contribution - Having the opportunity to participate and give input. Feeling like my ideas count.

But are any of those the true root cause of engagement?

I think I've found it:

~ Caring. If I care, I'll engage.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, July 29, 2008


Nimmy said…
Nice post, Terry! :) You might not really appreciate this tongue-in-cheek query....but, honestly, hey, when do you think I'll begin to care?? Would that go back to square one - depend on the other Cs or is it completely intrinsic?
Terrence Seamon said…
Hey Nimmy!
Nice to hear from you again.

Do the C's affect each other? You bet. My usual "high C level" of caring will go up when I am feeling good about my job, my boss, my company, and my future. On the other hand, when I'm not feeling as good about those things, the C level can dip...

Engagement is all about feelings!

David Zinger said…

I "c" what you mean.

I would also add the c-word connection and I believe connection comes out of caring for our work, our customers, our peers, our results, etc.

I think when we encounter disengagement caring is still the key.

We must CARE-front people who are disengaged not confront them.

Out of a stance of caring for them and the organization and our customers we must put their lack of engagement in front of them so that we can see what needs to be done for them, customers, and the organization.Perhaps they re-engage or make a switch. An disengaged life is not really a life at all!

Carry on caring, Terry!

Terrence Seamon said…
Well said, David.

Yes, care.

I like caring because it's a nice compression. We like one word answers.

Care might be a softer term for "motivated". If I'm motivated, I engage. So, we do go back to the variables (and science) that spark motivation, (or caring).

Why do people care? Why do people join any group, organization, workplace?

Instead of a list, I encourage leaders to explain caring as fitting into three categories:
1. Self-interest
2. Connection (Community)
3. Purpose (meaning)

What's interesting about this approach, is it connects to organizational culture. Different groups emphasize different categories, and the emphasis makes sense relative to the environment of the group.

For example, insurance claim processing is boring. Those teams tend to be women, and they tend to emphasize community. (Before anyone jumps on me, the data is pretty clear, woman have much stronger needs for community at work then men, men have stronger needs for power and status). These people come to work and keep returning because they have friendships.

Self-interest(making lots of money, cool work, intellectual challenge...) and claim processing don't go together.

A noble purpose also doesn't work, because claim processing isn't about making the world a better place, it's about denying claims on technicalities to reduce costs and make the insurance company more profits.

To create a purpose, it has to be artificial, like raising money for United Way, or forming a team to clean up the local park.

In a different example, a startup internet company might be about working with cool new tools and changing the way people live forever. So the technology startup is naturally heavier on self-interest and purpose. Community happens more by accident, since these people work together 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. Of course, adding a little fun and silliness is a good idea to lower stress and help people bond, so startups often can have all three factors rocking at the same time.

And people are different, what you care about may not be what I care about. You might want top $, I might want to solve a tough challenge. So multiple opportunities to care, increase the overall group's attractiveness.

Also, some motivators make more sense in some circumstances than others. (The underfunded, startup needs sweat-equity. It must use many attractors besides money to find and keep talented and engaged people. )

Anyway, this is a topic for a book, not a blog comment. I only wanted to share a way of thinking about caring that helps leaders create organizations that spark and sustain caring. Leaders are wise to vary the motivators to fit the context.

Warm regards,
Michael Cushman
Terrence Seamon said…
Great comment. Actually that's more of a full blog entry than a comment. How would you like to be my first guest blogger? If so, why don't you rework the comment to your liking and send it to me via email and I'll add it to my blog as a guest entry.

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