Engagement isn’t a strategy

Spare us from this stuff.  Please.  The Institute of Directors is planning a conference The IoD Leadership Series – Part I: Developing Dynamic ‘People Strategies’: The Foundation of Successful Business

Studies have shown that highly motivated, engaged staff are more productive, connect with customers better, have a positive effect on the morale within the workplace, deliver a higher quality of work and have reduced levels of absenteeism.

This Summit will look at a range of issues that enable companies to create dynamic and flexible work environments for their staff, highlighting the impact they have on the bottom line.

The mantra of engaged, highly motivated staff being more productive, etc is surely now accepted – whether or not it’s correct.  Yet the solutions almost invariably seem to be variations on the same old processes – processes that have, too often, dehumanised the workplace and demotivated and disengaged the workers in the first place.  Reading through the conference blurb, it seems to be the same attitude here – put in place the carrots, the sticks and the processes to come out with a perfectly tuned workforce at the end.

I’m deeply mistrustful of the basic concept that you can create and communicate a process that will create an engaged workforce.  It ignores too much about the context of the organisation, the previous experiences (and hence patterns of expectation) of people working in the organisation and the basic realities and truths of the working environment.  And it assumes an overly simplistic approach to all of this.

There may be some useful lessons in parts of the presentations, but I return to my belief that the most productive parts of conferences is in the connections and conversations with other people and in the time away from the office in which to pause and think.  Much of the presentations themselves and their content – no matter how well-intentioned – is at best of minor use and at worst misleading.

Rant over.