Much has been said about employee engagement. For me, the most important thing we have learned about employee engagement is that we haven’t gotten it right yet. We know that the direct correlation between engagement and organizational success makes increasing employee commitment a business imperative. Why would we not address this issue of optimizing our talent when our people are likely to be our most important and expensive asset? The measurements that Gallup uses to assess engagement are mostly leadership and culture dependent. I believe that we have yet to fully grasp the knowledge at our fingertips to take a comprehensive approach to this.
Thanks to all the research in the areas of Positive Psychology and Neuroscience, we have a much deeper understanding of human behavior and what governs it. We know that people are much more effective when they are in a positive emotional state. They are able to tap into their best capabilities and skill sets. We know that fear and other negative emotions inhibit our ability to be creative, hence impacting innovation, and our ability to connect with others, thus hindering collaboration and teamwork. We know that when we are in a positive state that the hormone dopamine is released turning on the learning centers of our brain. “75% of job successes are predicted by your optimism levels, your social support and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of as a threat.”1
We also know that when we are confronted with change, it often triggers a fear response. As stated above, when we are in a state of fear we resist moving forward with the change, we do not connect well with others to collaborate or team, to be creative to bring about innovations, or have the resilience to persevere through the inevitable bumps in the road. These are exactly the characteristics that are required to successfully achieve change initiatives. Our typical behaviors and our persistence to try and “manage change” would indicate that we think the road to success is a logical approach that ignores the human emotional aspect of change. Those who have been a part of an Appreciative Inquiry’s purposely positive approach to change have observed the positivity that is created in the process and the resulting outcomes of social bonding, creativity, unity of purpose, hope for the future and resilience to persist to see the change fulfilled. Why would we hesitate to use the collective wisdom of our people and engage it the pursuit of needed and desired change? If you want to see engagement just observe an appreciative process underway. Those who learn to master change rather than try to manage it will reap the benefits. You can both achieve change, and engage your people all in one process and impact the quality of your culture. Culture is not a wispy, soft, Pollyanna concept. Creating a positive, committed, engaged culture is the road to high performance and better results.

1 Shawn Achor, The Happy Secret to Better Work

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By: Tenny Poole

Principal, West Coast Center for Positive Change