There is a lot of talk about commitment and engagement in the workplace these days, but little discussion of what this actually really means. As a human resource management researcher, I know that the evidence in favour of creating high levels of commitment and engagement is clear, but all too often we see to want to question the commitment of others around us.
1. Can we learn from Rafa Benitez’ rant at Chelsea?
Take the high profile case of Rafa Benitez at Chelsea. He’s been in the press because of his ‘rant’ against the fans who are questioning his commitment to the club and his response was to question their commitment: why are they against me rather than for the team. From his perspective he is completely committed to seeing Chelsea through this season, the fans don’t see this as a valid commitment though given they will be fans still, long after he has gone.
2. Was Alan Sugar committed to Apprentice, Stella English?
The other high profile case that has been in the press recently that highlights the complexity of commitment is the ‘The Apprentice’ employment tribunal. Stella English, who won the Apprentice in 2010, is suing lord Sugar for constructive dismissal.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of this it seems at least very unfortunate that someone who committed to the demanding Apprentice ‘selection’ process has found herself in a role and position where she didn’t see that commitment and her potential contribution valued. Lord Sugar likewise may be rightly frustrated by someone he’s shown commitment seemingly not reciprocating.
3. Five easy ways to increase employee commitment
So what can you do to enhance your commitment and that of those around you?
– Colleagues want to know you are in it for the long haul. Many of Benitez’s issues stem from his role as an interim manager and hence the concerns of others, with strongly vested interests, that his heart isn’t really in it. In the workplace whether you are an interim manager or not you need to show that what you are doing and how you are working is supporting the organization’s long-term success. If you are only in it for yourself, you’ll be found out sooner or later.
– Ensure that the work that people do is meaningful. The Apprentice case seems to centre on just this issue. How meaningful was the job that Stella English got? We also need to think about this issue. Is the work that we give others worthwhile for the organization and for them? Longstanding research evidence tells us that people will commit to and perform better in work where their impact and contribution is valued and valuable.
– Take time for colleagues. People need to be heard and the very act of talking with colleagues about their issues and concerns can be significant in helping them handle these. Time spent with colleagues, however demanding this is to do with the other pressures upon us is always well spent. It also means that you’ll have a much better understanding of them, their drives and expectations and therefore ensuring that their work is meaningful for them and they remain committed should become easier to do.
– Model the behaviours that you want others to demonstrate. All three points above can be turned inwards to support your own commitment, and we know that if we’re not really committed it is difficult if not impossible to create this in others. So look at your own long-term expectations and how you can ensure these are, in so far as possible, aligned with the organization. And where your commitment is bounded, as in the Benetiz case, be clear on what that boundary is and where you expect to get to within the constraints that you have.
– Linked to this, we all have to, at least periodically, look at our own roles – and ensure these remain interesting, enjoyable and worthwhile for us. If you don’t then again you need to think about what changes might be need to regain your commitment. This also means that we have to make time for ourselves, our concerns and development and those things that are important to us. Too often as managers we can end up blown by the winds of the organization, spending time responding to the demands and expectations of those around us. At least part of the week should be set aside for doing the things that are important to you.
4. 1% increased employee contribution will increase competitiveness
These are of course simple ideas and I’d be delighted to hear from others about what we can do to enhance and support commitment and engagement in the workplace. The ideas and their impacts may be minor but they soon add up.
Andy Cook, Executive Chair of the Employee Relations Institute who we are working with on our new MSc in Employee Relations made the point to me recently that if we all could, through changes in our actions and behaviours, create a 1% increase in employee contributions that could add up to a massive impact on the economy and be instrumental in improving the competitiveness of the businesses we work in.
It would also mean that we were all happier in the work that we do, and that would be no bad thing as well.