Is there really nothing new in engagement?

This week were delighted to be invited to chair the CIPD Employee Engagement Conference in Church House, Westminster.  Delegates and speakers from Specsavers, Hutchison 3G, The Phoenix Group, Notcutts, M&S and McDonalds (among many others) gathered for a packed agenda of seminars and panel discussion.

As the day progressed the breakout chatter rang with ‘we’ve heard this before’, ‘is there really nothing new in engagement?’

How to respond to the bold challenge?  Is there really nothing new?  I came to a couple of immediate conclusions:

1. We were preaching to the converted.   By the very nature of choosing to be a delegate at this event, the delegate population were already well versed in the benefits and impact of engagement. We shouldn’t be surprised that we recognise so much of each speaker’s experience and activities that other businesses are undertaking.

If we have the knowledge – great!  There are many people and organisations out there that haven’t reached that foundation of understanding yet – and we (the enlightened!) have a responsibility to share.

2. We are still looking for the ‘magic pill’.   It’s a lot like a weight loss strategy.  Any man in the street can tell you that to lose weight you need to eat less, and move more.   Yet millions of people spend thousands of pounds on weight loss tablets, supplements, drinks and potions for the ‘quick win’.  Similarly, we all know the tenets of engagement – whether we choose to define these as the MacLeod report’s four enablers or some other term.   We need to define our vision, lead well, communicate and listen effectively.

But having the knowledge (“I know what engagement is and how to achieve it”) isn’t enough.  We all know how to lose weight.  But we don’t. To succeed, in weightloss or in engagement, we have to authentically do, or be something different.

Maybe the question when listening to conference speakers sharing their own stories on engagement is not to ask ‘is there anything new in this?’ but instead to ask ‘I am confident we/I do this?’  Perhaps that’s the magic pill we all need to swallow.

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Michaela Weller

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