The focus on employee engagement has been around for quite some time now. However, the understanding and practices supporting it have been rather limited. For one thing, engagement has generally been understood in transactional terms, for a particular job, role or task. Lately, forward looking organizations are moving towards what they call emotional engagement, which goes beyond a transactional relationship of the job at hand to encompass engagement on the company values and vision.
Why emotional engagement at work matters
When organizations first hear about emotional engagement, the first thought is, does it really matter? Well, the simple answer is YES. If you look closely, the employees who are only transactionally engaged simply focus on the financial returns and incentives. Transactional engagement simply means using rewards and recognition to engage employees, making it nothing more than a business deal. However, emotional engagement encourages employees to align their professional growth with organizational success. They closely map their goals to the company vision and chart out a path which is beneficial to both.
While those who are transactionally engaged come out as focused, disciplined as the ideal models for engagement, their contribution to organizational growth is rather limited. Whereas, emotionally engaged employees tend to go out of their way to drive growth. At the same times, emotional engagement is consistent across good and bad times, and these employees tend to have higher levels of satisfaction, wellbeing and work-life balance. In a nutshell, emotional engagement at work is an imperative for both the organization as well as the individual.
Achieving emotional engagement
While the rationale is clear, let’s look at some of the baseline practices that can help organizations achieve emotional engagement at work.
- Empathetic managers lead the way
To drive emotional engagement at work, it is very important for managers and leaders to don a cape of empathy. Only when employees feel confident that their managers take the effort to actually understand the needs and expectations, will they go an extra mile and engage in something beyond a transactional relationship.
- Acknowledge the value of their contribution
Expecting employees to be emotionally engaged from day one might be going overboard. It is only with time that this form of engagement comes along. One way to facilitate the same is by acknowledging how their work and contribution is making an impact and enabling the organization to move towards its goals. Most organizations lag behind in not recognizing and appreciating efforts. It can be even a tiny dent, but acknowledging the value of their work will help them map their performance to organizational goals and augment emotional engagement.
- Cultivating human bonds and relationships
Human connections and relationships are the key drivers of emotional engagement. Employees cannot simply be passionate about the four walls they work in. Thus, it is very important for managers and leaders to form bonds with their employees. Creating bonds also encourages employees to go out of their way and facilitate collective responsibility. At the same time, when senior leaders showcase their passion towards the vision and go out of the way to contribute, it creates a ripple effect, which amplifies if they have a good rapport with their team.
- Inclusion of diverse voices
For employees to be emotionally engaged at work, it is important that they feel they are heard. This translates to ensuring that all voices are included in every discussion. When an employee believes that his/ her thoughts are not only heard, but also acted upon, makes a difference. It is not only about capturing different voices, but also ensuring that action is taken on the same. The engagement itself translates from purely transactional to emotionally driven.
- Coaching and constant communication of organizational values
Finally, to drive emotional engagement where employees identify with the organizational mission and are enthusiastic about going an extra mile requires them to be aware about what the mission is. Simply putting the mission, values, goals in their onboarding document or spelling it out to them during the induction is not enough. It is important to constantly communicate the same through different formats. At the same time, workplace coaching can go a long way into reiterating the values the organization stands for and promote emotional engagement.
Marching towards success
Starting with these proven practices can help organizations swiftly walk through this phase of uncertainty and ambiguity. Emotional engagement encourages employees to work and contribute with the same passion and commitment, irrespective of disruptions. It would be a good idea for organizations to gauge the emotional engagement score of their employees and introduce tools and practices to augment the same. After all, change is the only constant, and an emotionally engaged workforce has the potential to face change, head on and come out as winners.