What I learnt from our family trips to the zoo
Employee engagement and why it might be lacking in some workplaces has been of interest to me for some time and I have been asking myself; why is work so poor for some? Why are some people seemingly so disengaged, unhappy and unfulfilled in their roles?
Strangely enough, this topic puts me in mind of family trips to the Isle of Wight Zoo which happens to be one of my favourite places to visit on the Island as I always want to see the big cats.
We haven’t been for a few years now, but what I still remember from our past visits and was always strongly impressed by; were the deep levels of love, trust and conviction shown by all members of staff for the welfare of the animals. There was a sense of purpose, conviction and pride that emanated from all the staff, including those in the canteen, those in the shop as well as the keepers.
Working at the Isle of Wight Zoo for these people seemed to be far more than a job – they were clearly on a mission and it showed in their interactions with us as visitors as well as with their interactions with the animals in their charge.
Recalling our visits got me thinking:
- What is employee engagement?
- How do you engage people?
- What happens when it’s gone?
According to Wikipedia an engaged employee is defined as:
‘someone who is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work and so takes positive action to further the organisations reputation and interests.’
Certainly, picked this up over several visits to the Isle of Wight Zoo, I saw staff that were knowledgeable, enthusiastic and proud about the work they were doing.
According to the Institute of Employment studies, employee engagement is:
‘a positive attitude held by the employee towards the organisation and its values. An engaged employee is aware of business context and works with colleagues to improve performance within the job for the benefit of the organisation. The organisation must work to develop and nurture engagement, which requires a two-way relationship between employer and employee.’
This definition is interesting, because as a visitor I could see for myself what the staff were doing but can only assume that the management team were in some way, working to ‘nurture and develop, engagement.’
The question is how? What might they be doing to ‘nurture and develop’ engagement in their members of staff?
Well without knowing precisely, I wonder if they have found a way to:
- Develop decent and accessible managers, by this I mean managers who provide feedback that people can act on, encourage development and listen to their staff. Perhaps this is more likely to happen if the managers themselves are well supported with access to all the above too. It’s interesting to note that in many cases, people leave their managers rather than their jobs.
- Identify and enable people to work to their strengths, skills and abilities and again more likely to happen is there is dialogue and ongoing development to unearth these.
- Create flexibility in the workplace, so that in peak times it’s ‘all hands to the pumps’ but allow people greater flexibility when things are quieter or as their situation, changes.
- Share their vision, share their ‘why’ so people can get on board and see where they are headed. They may well have ideas that will support the vision too.
- Support the health and happiness of their employees, studies are beginning to show that happy, healthy employees are less stressed and more motivated.
- Listen to their staff, clearly not everything can be acted on but genuine listening, with open ears and an open mind will go a long way.
- Invest in ongoing training and development for the people they have.
The above list is by no means exhaustive and perhaps you think this is all ‘over the rainbow’ stuff, and perhaps you are right but, in my opinion it’s well worth striving for.
In terms of what happens when engagement is gone, I’m going to ponder this and come back to it in a future post.
So, until next time.