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Typology Of Employee Engagement

Typology Of Employee Engagement/Empowerment

High employee engagement and empowerment is considered the holy grail of efficient and sustainable organizational performance. Yet, the way to achieve employee engagement/empowerment seems still quite elusive to most CEOs and top management.

Everyone knows that an engaged, empowered, and motivated employee is happier and more productive and, even though a handful of companies seem to believe that they know how to successfully boost employee engagement through involvement in a variety of issues that appear to give employees a sense of a higher purpose, this approach will still prove to be unsustainable unless an enhancive organizational structure is in place.

A recent article by TSG Consumer Partners states that “A worldwide Gallup poll shows that employee engagement — broadly defined as a state where employees are inclined to feel and speak positively about their workplace is an abysmal 13%.”

The number of disengaged employees that have little or no problem badmouthing their employers is above 80%! This is quite alarming, to say the least, and much more so when a practical and immediate solution is at hand.

Some companies seem to believe that they have successfully implemented a “sustainable business model,” as the TSG Consumer Partners article states, by taping into the higher sense of purpose that most humans have and yearn for, and thus, think that they are pointing in the right direction. However, these companies still need to understand the typology of employee engagement.

The Typology Of Employee Engagement (Adapted from Pretty et, al., 1994)

1) Passive Engagement, i.e., people told what to do.

2) Informative Engagement, i.e., people simply answer questions.

3) Consultative Engagement, i.e., people consulted by external agents but decision-making power remains with agents.

4) Bought Engagement, i.e., people participate in return for incentives (e.g., cash, food).

5) Functional Engagement, i.e., people have a say but only after major decisions have already been made by external agents.

6) Interactive Engagement, i.e., people engage in joint analysis and take control over local decisions.

7) Pro-Active Self-mobilization, i.e., people take control and start action independent of external agents.

These seven levels of employee engagement range from:

Passive Engagement i.e., Coercion, Collusion (Goal-seeking), at the lower extreme, to Pro-Active Engagement i.e., Inspirational/Purposeful (Ideal-seeking) at the higher level.

The importance of qualifying the type of employee engagement is obvious. Given the different shades of engagement, it cannot be expected that all forms of engagement will produce the same outcomes.

A key aspect of inspirational/purposeful systems is their ability ( given the right environment) to go the higher level of purposefulness, i.e., to be ideal-seeking.

To the extent that purposeful behaviour and engagement do exist, they are most routinely manifest in terms of less than ideal-seeking behaviour (e.g., goal-seeking or multi-goal-seeking behaviour) exemplified in one of Pretty’s first four classifications of engagement (i.e., passive, informative, consultative, and bought engagement) or in one of Ackoff and Emery’s first six functional types of systems.

This means that, in practice, individual behaviour is still considered instrumental to the organization instead of the organization being instrumental to the individual (i.e., a means towards an end and not as an end in itself).

This ‘instrumental’ view of individual behaviour reinforces the dominant-hierarchy approach in organizational redesigns or re-engineering initiatives that maintain the prevalence of variety-reducing structures (i.e., Bureaucracies).

High long-term productivity and efficiency can only be possible when people are given the power to make decisions about their work and their knowledge is valued (i.e., people exhibiting the desire for and ability to pursue an ideal).

To achieve high performance and realize positive sustainable outcomes an enhancive organizational design principle that moves beyond the “centralized mindset” (Resnick, 1997) is required, namely, the Second Design Principle (DP2).

Ultimately, it boils down to not only bringing the personal goals and values of employees together with the values and goals of the organization, but even more important, to align them with the fundamental purpose of the organization, namely, its Mission and Vision.

Thus, creating a truly sustainable business driven by ideal-seeking employees in search of their Higher Purpose!

JC Wandemberg Ph.D.

President & Founder

Sustainable Systems International

About the author: Dr. Wandemberg is an international consultant, stock trader, professor, and analyst of economic, environmental, social, managerial, marketing, and political issues. For the past 30 years Dr. Wandemberg has collaborated with corporations, communities, and organizations to integrate sustainability through self-transformation processes and Open Systems Design Principles, thus, catalyzing a Culture of Trust, Transparency, and Integrity.

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