• Shannon Hughes

Engagement: A Skills-Based Business Practice


[Published LinkedIn Article]

The statistics abound. A recent Gallup poll tells us that only a third of our employees, globally, feel a level of meaningful engagement at work. Engaged teams demonstrate 21% greater profitability due to more time in the office and less turnover. They perform more strongly when they are heard and when empathy and trust abound. If we add millennial data onto this, the findings are even more startling.

And meanwhile, the average turnover cost is $15,000 per employee.

So what are we missing in the way we lead our teams that drives 70% disengagement? The research highlights the importance of values-based leadership, transparency and wellness programs that are rolled out broadly throughout the organization; a daily alignment to the company’s mission and vision.

In simple terms, we’re talking about the issues many of us have experienced at one time or another in our own careers: managers trying to lead through closed door meetings, performance reviews with no meaningful follow-through, siloed teams, distracted team leads hosting ineffective meetings, company mission statements held together by a string.

Wellness programs are certainly on the rise, which is great news, and some of the more progressive companies are even dipping their toes into storytelling, interactive off-site scavenger hunts - and yes, improv.

The principles of improv are many. The most prominent, of course is “Yes, and…” which suggests that to accept and work with an offer (rather than blocking it) leads to more meaningful conversation, creative collaboration and effective outcomes.

Other principles include intentional listening, for the sake of hearing vs. talking (an important distinction), non-judgment, interdependence, staying curious and embracing change.

This last one is my personal favorite, particularly as the HR community buzzes about the importance of “workplace agility” in our fast-paced VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world.

We can call it agility, sure. That certainly resonates when we think of software development and scrum practices. We can also think of it as flexibility, thinking on our feet, spontaneity; an ability to pivot, shift gears”.

Or we can call it what it is: improvisation, a set of skills-based business practices that support (among many other things), productive collaboration, effective meetings, profitable client interaction, better presentations, trust in leadership and yes -- change management.

We’re recruiting and hiring smart, passionate future leaders in droves, but we’re not necessarily setting them up for success.

New hire onboarding and training programs are often times lackluster, yet these employees are being asked to pitch in with confidence, achieve sales quotas and bring new products to market. Doable, sure, but sometimes at the risk of burnout or high turnover.

Committing to L&D -- and specifically connective, group learning like improv -- is no longer a box that needs ticking. Rather, it’s a need-to-have investment if we have any chance of improving employee engagement, working through change/uncertainty and nurturing company cultures worth celebrating.


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©2017 BY SHANNON HUGHES, ENLIVENED STUDIOS