Is Chief Engagement Officer the New CEO?
We all value the ideal of engagement at work. A recent LinkedIn report celebrated that the United States has climbed to an all-time high – 38% engagement. So, as we celebrate that percentage, does anyone else recognize that 62% of the workforce – nearly two-thirds aren’t engaged? Sadly, it seems nobody really achieves true engagement or, if they do, it doesn’t seem to last. Is the Executive Officer too busy or distracted to demand the company develop, implement, and maintain practical strategies where higher engagement is the outcome?
In the last 14 years of my corporate HR experience, I worked in an executive environment where our CEO would often remind us that “none of us are as smart as all of us.” The team mattered and people, down to the very basic level of the company, knew what we stood for and what we were working toward. Our CEO joined us on monthly calls and we answered questions going from one table to another at breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. We held regular town hall meetings, listened to one another, and held executives accountable for the regular occurrence of these check-ins. All of this before “engagement” was a thing.
Now that engagement IS a thing, as I listen to virtual discussions about engagement and read various thoughts on the subject, I wonder if we are thinking in initiatives and applications that are too big. For example, companies use 9 blocking, rack & stack, learning, and development initiatives to build employees with the thought that this will keep them engaged. Perhaps, it will. However, these tactics have been around for a while and don’t seem to affect overall engagement. Why? Because typically, they involve only a few employees. Normally only the HIPO’s, High Potential Employees, benefit from or are offered these opportunities. What about the other 85 percent of employees? We make these decisions, leave the majority out, and then wonder why every single employee is not engaged.
There are some critical parts missing from the process of building engagement in our organizations. So what should we then do? Perhaps we should change the acronym of CEO from Chief Executive Officer to Chief Engagement Officer. The CEO needs to lead and value the efforts of employees because an engaged team will perform better and produce better results. The CEO must realize that modeling engaging behavior for his or her leadership team, and all other members of the organization may be the most important thing the CEO does in a day. Once that is understood – and it is not always easy – there are three primary ideas that can be comfortably taught.
- People are more engaged when they have a stake in the results and feel listened to and respected. I recently heard a comment made from an employee after her exchange with the CEO: After questioning her future with the CEO, she was challenged to stop waiting for the company to tag her out as a future leader and begin to prepare herself as one. She said, “That is the most respectful way anyone has ever challenged me to improve and to take responsibility for my career. I feel heard and I feel important.”
- Teams help. Creating teams helps us move beyond generations, gender, race, and other differences – which can be a serious distraction – and allow us to focus on responsibility and results. Accomplishing important tasks help us to feel engaged and as if we can, and are, contributing. Engagement will improve when teams function well.
- Holding regular feedback sessions. Employees need the freedom to set their own goals, get reminded of company direction, safely complain, get face time with leaders, and laugh a little. These feedback sessions will help team members to feel engaged.
In a blogpost written by our founder and CEO, Larendee Roos, she explains,
“As we find ourselves in authentic service to our teams we ultimately find that people are drawn to us and want our leadership. Employees have many options of where they can work. We are one among a sea of many leaders. Our introspection that helps us understand when we feel energized and inspired compared to when we feel like we have sold ourselves short or compromised our core standards help us be more authentic. This work helps us to boldly guide our teams without fear. It also helps us lead with greater clarity.”
As so many look for the “Silver Bullet” of building and maintaining engagement, a revisit to these ideas can make a real difference within a company’s culture. If the CEO can understand that the acronym has changed to Chief Engagement Officer, engagement will elevate, along with overall company performance.