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Progressive organizations are increasingly focusing on refining their talent management strategies to effectively manage a multigenerational workforce for staying relevant and competitive in the Digital Age.  An important aspect of such initiatives is to have a higher number of engaged employees who are intrinsically driven to go beyond the call of duty in assuring and ensuring supreme organizational performance.  However, the exuberance associated with seeing buoyant engagement in the workplace and high ratings on employee surveys can be misleading.

The perfunctory urge to put up positive metrics on fancy HR Dashboards reflecting strong employee engagement to please senior management often comes at the expense of sagacious employees who tend to maintain a ‘dignified silence’ over thorny issues that might them in the ‘crosshairs’ of a fidgety senior management.  They generally adhere to the idiom of ‘fake it till you make it’, which is robust enough to withstand ‘open door policies’, ‘candid employee surveys’, ‘informal chats with peers’, and incentivized corporate forums for pointing out profound challenges.

The aforementioned aspect is further exacerbated by the propensity of progressive organizations to start ‘requiring’ employee engagement, rather than, ‘expecting’ it as a natural offshoot of an enterprising culture based upon robust values.  This has the downside of becoming a job specification which brings ‘shrewd actors’ into play who are enticed by the external motivation of gaining associated rewards and recognition.  Consequently, the ‘glamorization’ of employee engagement often eclipses the ‘voluntary initiatives’ of the ‘truly engaged’ employees who are driven by the primary intrinsic motivation of ‘doing good’ as an affirmation of their exemplary professionalism.  This type of cajolery employee engagement often increases the ‘blind spots’ of a ‘placated’ senior management and fuels ‘false hope’ of smoothly running a ‘crumbling’ organization.

It is therefore prudent to take a deeper dive into the broader spectrum of ‘engaged’ employees for formulating talent management strategies that have a higher probability of ‘real’ success, rather than, being dismissed as ‘icing on a rotting cake’ by cynical employees.  This is also necessary since employee engagement is gravitating towards a more ‘purpose-driven’ display of ‘altruistic professionalism’ from the commonly recognizable ‘affective’ manifestation of organizational citizenship behavior as organizations seek a finer mix of AI-driven automation with fewer number of employees in achieving desired operational efficiencies.

Following are the five key types of ‘engaged’ employees that are commonly found within most organizations:

The Angel
This employee is a rare gem and assiduous by nature.  He/she is an embodiment of goodness regardless of the presence of an informal/formal engagement program/initiative by the leadership.  He/she is intrinsically driven to excel in the workplace and is always willing to go the extra mile that endears him/her to peers and customers/clients.  Astute leaders love to project them as standard bearers of the workforce due to their unflinching professional commitment and unadulterated work ethics.  They should be substantially empowered without the burden of micro-management by grooming in a nurturing work environment that is geared towards optimizing their inherent skills.  Special emphasis should be laid upon retaining such employees and cultivating them for leadership positions through timely and progressive capability enhancement while charting a clear course for career growth and development.  Care should be taken to protect them from the acidic nature of organizational politics.

The Striver
This employee is low-maintenance and easily malleable by nature.  He/she can be motivated by simply removing minor irritants in the workplace and is eager to excel beyond the ‘call of duty’ once the ‘engagement hindrance’ has been removed.  There are no unreasonable needs/expectations from his/her side with respect to the workplace environment.  He/she is the ‘good soldier’ who can be relied upon to perform assigned tasks without hesitation once trust and confidence in his/her abilities are clearly demonstrated and communicated.  He/she can also become a wonderful ambassador for the organizational brand and an effective asset in recruitment drives.  Such employees should be generously facilitated in terms of enabling them to perform their roles in a hassle-free and comfortable work environment with no/minimal hand-holding.  Emphasis should rather be more on fair and visible recognition on the desired achievement of goals/objectives.

The Driver
This employee is high-maintenance and demanding by nature with the strictest psychological contract.  He/she responds favorably to only significant positive changes in the workplace to trigger motivation for ‘engagement’ and, generally, is not willing to compromise on a principled approach to work.  These can include:

>Observing honest leadership with luminous foresight and astute decisiveness in safeguarding the interests of the organization with integrity in a timely manner
>Assimilation within a welcoming and coalescing culture imbued with an invigorating work environment
>Provided unambiguous empowerment to excel in his/her assigned role
>Having a credible and meaningful ‘voice’ in the improvement initiatives undertaken by the organization, e.g., refinement of functional processes, increased transparency and fairness in accountability and recognition
>Systematic and seamless organizational compliance with applicable mandates, statutes, laws and regulations

Every possible effort should be made to accommodate such employees since they are generally sincere in the desire to see ‘true’ value in their employers before embarking upon the ‘engagement’ journey.

The Transformer
This employee is a like a Chameleon and highly adaptive in nature.  He/she gives the appearance of an ‘engaged’ employee without being a ‘true’ convert as a calculated move to be a ‘management pleaser’ for as long as it is in ‘fashion’.  Such employees are always looking for ways to increase their career ‘shelf-lives’ and intently watch for signs of leadership preferences to take appropriate measures in order to project a positive image of themselves as a ‘true’ believer and an ardent follower.  They like to establish strong professional networks within the organization and have a ‘close ear’ to the corporate grapevine.  They simulate loyalty to the current leadership, however, conveniently switch sides if another faction gains more traction in terms of holding the future reins of the organization.  Prudent leaders should be wary of their ‘hidden’ intentions and marginalize them upon detection from the ‘genuinely’ engaged employees since the penchant to negatively influence their peers can significantly dilute relevant talent management initiatives.

The Player
This employee is an agitator and Machiavellian in nature.  He/she tries to willfully sabotage any positive workplace engagement initiatives through passive resistance, although, feigning ‘engagement’ on the outside.  Such employees have a dim view of corporate leadership and normally carry personal grudges due to a perception of having been ‘wronged’ by them in the past.  A trigger in the respective context could be observing the spectacle of ‘restrained success’ and ‘rampant failure’ of prior initiatives spearheaded by earlier/current leaders.  They are unwilling to entertain the thought that leaders are capable of learning from past mistakes.  Consequently, they often justify their nefarious designs in the context of ‘saving the organization’ from another fancy leadership experiment.  These voices of discontent and mischief muddy the organizational landscape with malicious intrigue and sow the seeds of incredulity that quashes the best of intentions on part of the top management to foster robust engagement among their workforce.  Such team members should be neutralized upon detection with appropriate disciplinary actions that reflect the serious implications of their actions.

Employee engagement is not a ‘responsibility’; it is a ‘calling.  It should not be turned into a job specification.  Let it evolve, grow and prosper through appropriate triggers, e.g., shared values, accommodative workplaces, empowerment initiatives, cohesive bonds between supervisors and team members, culture of learning through mistakes, timely and visible recognition of those intrinsically-motivated ‘frequently-invisible’, ‘passionately diligent’, and ‘magnanimously selfless’ heroes/heroines, invigorating employee experience as an integral part of ‘total rewards’ package, etc.  There is no greater debt on an organization’s conscience than underutilized talent and any lapse in fully benefiting from sustainable employee engagement could mean the difference between staying relevant and competitive in the Digital Age or being banished to the corporate wilderness to wither away unceremoniously.  The choice is yours…

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