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On fairness, engagement and insight


Employee engagement is seen as a panacea for current organisational ills yet recent reports from the Work Foundation amongst others indicate major flaws in the way it is traditionally understood and measured. They argue for a focus on: 1. Procedural fairness; 2. Personal security; 3. Relationships; 4. Interconnectedness; 5. Freedom to act and the nature of the job itself. They argue for greater appreciation of how to lead and manage in a more knowledge-orientated era. It’s interesting that these issues have been well-known for many years in a different guise – in the exploration of what creates the conditions to unlock people’s creativity to productive ends. It’s also interesting to know that superficial or inappropriate responses are commonplace and only serve to lower levels of trust and engagement. Fortunately that means the resolution to these issues is also well known; if not well practiced. The challenge is to ‘operationalise’ fairness, engagement and insight in authentic ways. It is in fact to develop insightful paradigms that guide interaction based on sound principles. One of the keys to achieving this is to understand that people engage in work, change and solve problems in different ways. Problems are essentially the separation that lies between where we are and where we want to be. Solutions are the bridges we build to cross that separation. In order to survive, living creatures solve problems. As far as we know humans are the most skilled of problem solvers. We also know that those who become proficient in the methods and tools of problem solving, and who understand their own problem solving preferences, strengths, and limitations, are the most effective. I have noticed many situations where appropriate ‘processes and tools’ are applied to the wrong people in the wrong way. Consequently people are alienated, their ideas are not included, they don’t venture their insights; they feel disrespected and they react to this by getting even in other ways. This applies to clients just as much as it does to employees. Let’s just clarify our terms: • Processes – a sequence of activities needed to achieve a transformation. • Tools – are processes used to improve efficiency or quality of results. • Techniques – are the ways those tools are used. These can be intelligently done or not so. Too frequently we use the right tools in the wrong way because we don’t understand the context sufficiently and we certainly don’t pay sufficient attention to the different ways people prefer change, to contribute, solve problems and interact. Essentially we treat them as the same because we are using the same tool. Yet research shows that you get very different results using the same tool in different ways. Each of us approaches problems and challenges in our own way, trying to find effective solutions to enable us to attain the greatest benefit, put the problem behind us, and move on. We differ in the ways we define a problem, in our search for solutions, and in preparing to take action on our solutions. Those who understand and can navigate this create greater engagement, use and apply fair process and create freedom to act. They are the ones who can drive engagement in authentic ways. How many of them do you have in your organisation?

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