Why employee engagement is important in the future
Employee engagement has been a hot topic in business research for many years, and it seems that the engagement numbers are staying stagnant, with high degrees of low engagement.
Someone that spends a lot of time thinking and researching about the future of working is Linus Jonkman; author, consultant, graphic illustrator, people & culture strategist and fully-fledged renaissance man. We had a very interesting chat with Linus, covering a variety of topics such as employee engagement, leadership and what skills will be considered valuable in the job market in the future.
What is engagement really?
Engaged people are the ones that will be looking for trends and find new paths forward. The world is changing rapidly and things become obsolete fast, so having a culture where engaged people can thrive will be a matter of survival.
A clear definition of the culture is the first step, making choices about values and ethics that are genuine and adhered to. Engagement generally flourishes in cultures that have high transparency, less focus on status and openness to challenging decisions and plans.
“There is a difference between high performers and highly engaged people that is sometimes overlooked. High performers get the tasks done and on time but the engaged people ask questions and point out issues.”
“Highly engaged people can be perceived as quite annoying and opinionated in cultures where challenging decisions are not accepted.”
The evolving role of the coaching leader
As a strategist, Linus has studied how leaders today function in their workplace and how their role is changing. Leaders, he explains, have a lot of responsibility and little mandate. The expertise lies more and more within the team as the world is getting increasingly complex and it will take a group of people to hold the necessary competence to make good decisions.
“Leadership as we know it will evolve more towards a coaching role rather than a managerial one. Autonomous teams will become the new norm and these will be founded on a base of principles and values”.
The key skills of the future
Linus sees a future that’s more focused on width than the depth of experience. The more experience you have from different industries, the more unique you will be, he argues and adds:
“The ability to think differently and cross-pollinate ideas comes easier to those that have tried a variety of things and environments.”
This will be relevant because, in many industries, Linus goes on explaining, seniority will become less important as change accelerates.
“The way things were done in the past is not a good blueprint for how they should be done in the future. People with a lot of seniority in one specific field run the risk of sticking to old truths when the world has, in fact, changed.”
The conclusion is that to follow one’s passions is always a good idea, even if that means having a broad and colourful set of skills rather than mining a deep understanding within a topic.
Location anarchy - the new norm
Another way in which the world has changed is the rise of the working from home paradigm. Most experts agree that working from home will be normalized and this comes with a new set of challenges for leaders. In this new normal where people are free to work from home to a much higher degree, we will likely see a spectrum of solutions from working solely in the office to always working from home. We can expect this spectrum to be linked to the degree of extroversion among other factors.
Research on working from home has shown that the rate of promotion declines when people are not in the office. This will be to the detriment of introverted people unless they can be rewarded differently and in a way that is more appreciated. As Linus says; our current recognition systems are to a high degree designed for extroverts. Good rewards for extroverts, such as promotions, are not necessarily as well received by introverted people. Hopefully, the shift in what people view as their workplace will make us more tolerant of different personalities and have a wider view of what motivates people.
Linus’s 4 tips for how to stay innovative as a company (and an appreciated employer) in the future:
Create a culture that embraces being challenged. This will let engaged people thrive.
Give autonomy to your teams and start seeing coaching as the most important part of leading a team.
Hire people with varied and unexpected backgrounds. If they care about what you do, they will bring new ideas to the table.
Make sure you can attract talented people of all types by offering different kinds of recognition that fit many personalities.
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Linus Jonkman’s book “Introvert - the friendly takeover”: https://www.amazon.com/Introvert-friendly-takeover-Linus-Jonkman/dp/9198327615
The Influence of Culture and Structure on Autonomous Teams in Established Companies: https://library.oapen.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.12657/23098/1007060.pdf?sequence=1#page=55