Employee engagement in today’s market is no longer a suggestion box or a series of surveys, but a perpetual process which requires a different approach than traditional problem solving if companies wish to realize their full potential.

“Without employee engagement, your business will not succeed,” said Daphne Woolf, managing partner at the Colin Baer Group, a Toronto human resource consulting firm. Speaking at the Concepts and Practices of Canadian Benefits for Canadian and U.S. Corporations conference at Toronto’s Sheraton Centre on Monday, Woolf explained that the deficit-based problem solving approach traditionally used in business was not applicable to issues of employee engagement, and employers would do well to adjust their tactics in order to harness the energy of their workers.

The commonly used deficit-based approach to problem solving, according to her, focuses on identifying the problem, brainstorming solutions, and developing an action plan. “This works beautifully in an operational environment,” said Woolf. “However, in the world of engagement, we enter the realm of perception, feelings, and beliefs, and it doesn’t work so well.”

She offered what she called a constructionist approach to engagement in which the positive aspects of the worker’s universe are identified and reinforced. “The first thing I want to know is, what’s working? What do you love about the job?” said Woolf. In her experience, most people will initially want to focus on the negative, but she forces them to open up about what works well in order to create a positive environment.

She then has the worker explain his or her ideal work environment in terms of productivity, engagement, and worker satisfaction. “Now they’re getting excited,” she said. “They start to imagine a positive world instead of being steeped in their negative present.”

The final step is to ask workers what needs to change in order to get there. “We talk very specifically, tangibly, and practically about how to get there.” This process, she explained, results in no venting or emotional negativity, and gives her the answers she needs to work towards a solution. “The next step, which workers really like to hear, is how do we do this together?”

Woolf depicts engagement as a never-ending quest, as companies react to the dynamics of people, business cycles, and market forces. She explained that organizations must stay very current and recognize that the process of how engagement is managed is very much the outcome of increasing employee engagement.

An engaged workforce will not only be happier, but will reward the employer with maximum productivity, explained Woolf. “Without an engaged workforce, a business is not going to realize its full potential, full stop,” she said. “The key in this process is not only listening to employees, but asking the right questions and bringing into the present their vision of that positive future.”

To comment on this story, email jody.white@rci.rogers.com.

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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