Introduction - Ingredient 5 - Maximising Connectedness

. To establish an engaged and empowered staff, there first needs to be alignment (Ingredient 4)

. Two definitions of connectedness or engagement are

"...a personal state of authentic involvement, contribution and ownership..."

Karalyn Brown, 2005

"...the bond an individual experiences with another person, a group, or anything else that stirs feelings of attachment, loyalty, excitement, inspiration, comfort and our willingness to make sacrifices. Working on a connected team galvanises people in ways nothing else can..."

Edward Hallowell, 2011

. Handling change is linked with engagement/productivity, ie

"...The Reconstructing for Growth survey finds that in companies that manage change badly, 94% of employees are not engaged and 51% say productivity is suffering. However, in companies that manage the process well, only 40% of employees are not engaged and 3 percent say productivity is suffering..."

Fiona Smith, 2009g

"...sense of empowerment creates innovation and opportunity and enthusiasm..."

Grahame Petersen (CBA) as quoted by James Eyers, 2014

. Success at work expressed by satisfaction and engagement had been linked to influence of our lateral friendships at work. Most agree about the benefits of cordial relations between co-workers. The message to management is about creating a friendly working environment that encourages opportunities for informal meetings between colleagues and sharing of information. This is important as most people are spending more and more time at work and less time in outside groups, such as church or communities. On the other hand, there is more to engagement than friendship at work. Engagement involves leadership, management behaviours, organisational culture, rewards and recognition system, etc

. Furthermore, the relationship between management and staff needs to be friendly but not necessarily familiar. If management endeavours to become best friends with staff, there is the potential for problems and conflicts of loyalty, especially when making tough decisions about staff and their future. This situation is relevant in Australia as mateship is an important part of Australian culture. Remember:

"... employees respect leaders who make tough decisions but are honest and have a high degree of integrity rather than being best buddies with everyone..."

Mark Busine as quoted by Catherine Fox, 2007c

There is a need to maintain clear boundaries and role borders between management and their staff. Otherwise allegations of favouritism can be made. Managers need to have a trusting relationship with their staff, rather than being their friends.

. Sense of connectedness, such as career progression, work life balance and feeling of belonging to the organisation are more important than money. Usually people do not leave an organisation for money alone, the greater the sense of connectedness, the better the productivity and motivation. Staff do not work harder etc because of financial rewards, ie

"...employees who identify strongly with the organisation and their own work group have increased work satisfaction and lower turnover in jobs; they show increased reputation-building behaviour; they will defend the company's reputation in both formal and informal environments; and they will engage in corporate citizenship that typically goes unrewarded..."

Kate Reynolds as quoted by Catherine Fox, 2006f

. Humans are hard-wired to receive pleasure from co-operation, ie

"...MRI scans performed when the volunteers were cooperating together revealed a special pattern of brain activity in the region is linked to pleasure and reward, like the caudate nucleus and nucleus accumbens..."

Robert Winston, 2003


"...Besides which, we're all learnt, consciously or otherwise, as we grew up in this society that reciprocity leads to social cohesion - getting on better with everyone around you..."

Robert Winston, 2002

. In the organisational transition process there is a subtle choice that will set the tone of the transition:

Will it be authority-driven? Will the impetus and planning come from the energy of the original authors of the initiative alone ‐ charismatic, heroic leaders propelling the activities of others? or

Will the change effort be driven by widespread commitment, involving the aspirations and capabilities of the many people involved in it?

The former approach characterizes most change initiatives while the latter characterizes the strategies of leaders who appreciate the development of an organisation's learning capabilities. Change driven by authority is more efficient to organize, often more effective in the short run, and is most immediately comfortable for many people in many organisations. If all goes well, productivity and morale improve, ie people recognize that things are getting better. Despite this, the transition effort is powerful only as long as the authoritarian leader pushes it. If the situation changes, eg the leader leaves and/or loses interest, the initiatives begin to decelerate. In this situation, after a few failures or setbacks, the energy for transition can dissipate altogether.

On the other hand, if the initiative is driven by learning, there are repeated opportunities for individuals to design, initiate and implement actions themselves. This is what engagement is about. It builds commitment through connectedness and action, and draws in new people who share similar values and aspirations. This type of additional process becomes self-perpetuating, ie "virtuous reinforcing cycle". As this system is not dependent upon any particular person or a particular group of individuals, their loss has minimal impact on the transition.

. Smart organisations involve their staff in running their organisation

"...the idea that staff turn up for work, hang their brains near the front door, do a day's work and then pick their brains up on the way out, was abandoned long ago by most organisations. But getting the involvement of your people in running and improving the business beyond their normal day-to-day tasks is not always easy..."

Harry Onsman, 2004

. Many companies ask the wrong question:

"...what is the irreducible core that we need to turn on the lights in the morning and lock up the doors at night and still continue to be in business?..."

Robert Kriegel et al, 1996

A much more empowering and engaging question would be:

" can we change the way we do business so that the people we have are better able to contribute to organisational success?..."

. You will never, never, never have an engaged team unless the management is willing to share control

. To maximise engagement, there needs to be a high level of respect for management. A definition of engagement is

"...the extent to which workers identify with, are motivated by and are willing to go the extra mile for their employers..."

IRS (employee research firm) as quoted by Catherine Fox, 2004c

It is about behaviour; it is more than motivation, it involves the

"...long-term psychological connection between worker and the employer..."

Catherine Fox, 2004c

The more engaged employees are, the longer they stay in the job and productivity improves.

It is more than strong identification and pride in brand by the employee

. There is statistical evidence of a causal relationship between engagement and profitability, ie

"...Worldwide research by Hewitt shows that organisations who care about how people are treated at work, who go out of their way to create positive work experiences and who run their businesses with their people at the top of their mind, have far superior results. Their workforce records lower employee turnover and higher customer satisfaction levels. They also have strong leaders who now have to communicate a consistent set of promises for their people, a kind of internal branding......the message is around authenticity......about whether they are valued, and have a sense of confidence, and feeling they know where the business is going and they can see they have a future there: that's the leadership thing...."

Catherine Fox, 2007a

Image result for sylvia duckworth illusion of success
(source: Sylia Duckworth, 2017)

. Connectedness

- is all about letting go so that others can get going

- means that people have the confidence and the techniques to take responsibility

- is about employee involvement which means authorisation and power to act

- should not be regarded as being synonymous with management cop-out or abdication of responsibility

- means management listening, instead of talking, to employees

"...the best time to develop connections with the people you need to influence is before you need them..."

Annette Simmons, 2004

. For connectedness to work, management has to

- hold in high regard individual employees' capabilities

- persuade the organisation that they do hold in high regard individual employees' capabilities

. Linked with connectedness and engagement is participation. UK data (Chris Forde, et al, 2006) has demonstrated that

- participation does improve productivity

- threat to job security does not lift performance

- threat of unemployment or redundancy does not reduce productivity gains delivered by participation

"...The evidence suggests a very strong correlation between high levels of engagement and business performance, especially total shareholder return..."

David Brown has quoted by Mark Abernethy, 2007

. People who have a best friend at work are 7 times more likely to be positively engaged with their job (Edward Hallowell, 2011). Engagement improves performance and a sense of connectedness in the workplace leads to engagement.


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