Holistic employee engagement for a successful business-ship

29 February 2016 Liane McGowan, Happy Monday
Liane McGowan, happiness guru and founder of Happy Monday.

Liane McGowan, happiness guru and founder of Happy Monday.

According to Mike Abrashoff, Commander USS Benfold (retired); “It all came down to employee engagement. It all came down to recognition. It all came down to leadership, which led to every sailor feeling ownership and accountability for the results. You can ask a team to accomplish a mission but you can’t order excellence.” He may have been commanding a US Navy destroyer, but in the corporate world, every company can be equated to a ship – and every leader equated to a commander.

“No, you can’t order excellence; but you can cultivate it,” believes Liane McGowan, happiness guru and founder of Happy Monday CC. “If you want your workforce to pull together and function like a Navy crew, fostering happiness in the workplace, building fulfilment and giving employees true purpose are key elements to success.”

In an article recently published on Forbes, US based Josh Bersin - corporate HR, talent management and leadership analyst - stated that; “It’s time to rethink the concept of ‘employee engagement’. In fact, I believe the issue of ‘engaging people well’ is becoming one of the biggest competitive differentiators in business. The change we need to make is to redefine engagement beyond an ‘annual HR measure’ to a continuous, holistic part of an entire business strategy. The days of the annual engagement survey are slowly coming to an end, to be replaced by a much more holistic, integrated, and real-time approach to measuring and driving high levels of employee commitment and passion.”

Traditional engagement avenues, such as cash bonuses and an annual team building event, overlook the essential fibres that make humans tick. We are complex, multi-faceted and sometimes compartmentalised beings. To achieve true happiness, contentment and excellence, each of these components of life must be addressed. “For this reason, holistic employee engagement is critical. If we focus on only one facet, such as financial, we ignore the fact that money doesn’t necessarily make people happy. When we focus only on physical health and fitness, we put aside the need for mental wellbeing. If we only focus on creating a well-appointed physical work environment, we neglect the emotional needs of - and delicate relationships between - our staff.”

How should organisations ensure holistic engagement? By following Commander Abrashoff’s example: recognise your employees and all of their intricacies; lead them in such a way that they feel ownership of the role they play in the success of the company; reward them for achievements (with more than money); and allow them to take accountability for the businesses ebbs and flows.

“Employee engagement should encompass physical, emotional and mental/intellectual health,” concludes McGowan. “When employees are engaged on all levels, they become brand ambassadors of the highest rank. They will strive to achieve, not only for the company, but for themselves too. Through holistic engagement the workforce sees itself as part of a higher purpose, aligning its own goals with that of an organisation, resulting in a synchronised, continuous drive to the top.”

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