Engagement can’t be sustained – at least not the way many (if not most) people imagine it. Let me explain…
Many people have the mistaken impression that an engaged employee:
- Is always enthusiastic about their work
- Always enjoys their work
- Regularly feels challenged by their work
- Feels a sense of commitment to their work, and
- Derives satisfaction from their efforts
Granted, a person who is enthused, committed, energized and challenged is an engaged person, but to expect someone to be like that all the time is unrealistic. It’s a rare person – usually a visionary leader – who is enthusiastic and committed to something the majority of the time. But for the rest of us, it’s just not realistic and won’t happen.
Sure, people can become highly engaged. An individual or a team may become very enthusiastic about a project or a challenge. And of course, people will be committed to achieving a meaningful goal. But a state of high engagement just can’t exist for the majority of people over a prolonged period. Here’s why… People get bored. Most often, we’re not asked to work on new and exciting projects on a regular basis. Instead, we’re generally performing routine tasks – nothing to be excited about.
But employee engagement in its true sense is very much sustainable and is realistic to achieve at all levels throughout an organization. Real employee engagement is reflected in how people spend their discretionary time and effort. Someone who is engaged is always committed to their work and derives satisfaction from it most of the time.
If you’ve employed people who enjoy the kind of work they were hired to do and they get to do that work on a regular basis and they have a boss/leader with strong interpersonal skills and the organization has a positive culture, much of the workforce will be engaged. They’ll be committed to their work and they’ll look for ways to improve. They’ll solve problems and they’ll derive satisfaction from their efforts. But in order to achieve that, all those pieces must be in place.
While it’s true that a high state of engagement can’t be sustained for very long by a workforce, real engagement is achievable in the long run. It requires starting with the right people, having a leadership team with strong interpersonal skills, and creating a supportive culture.