“The role of the Engagement Business Partner is to make themselves redundant”
The above statement is perhaps a little startling; many of you reading this may currently be in these roles, actively working to start, stimulate, raise or maintain engagement in organisations – yours or those of others. Others of you will perhaps be seeking inspiration as a business leader or HR manager and considering the benefit of having focussed support.
As someone previously in this role for almost 10 years (and I would do it again in a heartbeat) I know first-hand the value of this focused partnership, but see this statement as our aspiration.
As a member of the “Transactional to Transformational Engagement” TAG I remember many inspirational provocations and discussions around how to define and decode “transformational” engagement. We all clearly understood “transactional” engagement; a process or set of tasks and best practises, usually triggered by survey results and related action plans, that would lead to higher engagement. This higher engagement would in turn be measured by better engagement survey outcomes.
But to transform we should become not just changed, but somehow different from what we were before.
For me, the simplest way to express this is something that ceases to be something we do and becomes WHO WE ARE.
When engagement becomes who we are it tranforms us. It is embedded throughout our active culture and lived values. It is the way we do business, every day. With our candidates, our employees, our colleagues, our leaders, our suppliers, our customers, our consumers. The elements that are proven to underpin high engagement – the four enablers – give us a perspective for our today and our future. Surveys become just a good habit that is part of business life to support our quest for an even better workplace.
But how to reach this state?
I liken this to achieving high performance in any activity. Your starting point in fact has to be transactional! Consider a mountain climb, for instance. You can’t reach the summit without setting out in this way. You need to know your starting point and your vision, assemble the right team under the best leadership, create and communicate strategies to help you achieve the inspirational goal, assign roles according to strengths, build collaborative relationships, foster open, honest communication… and train and practise hard! These transactional activities build the performance you need to reach that summit.
This takes time, however; sustainable overnight successes are rare!
The role of an Engagement Partner, internal or external, is to be the catalyst for this transformational change. Creating and establishing great transactional measures and practises throughout the organisation sets up a solid foundation from which to ascend to the summit. Providing stimulus and provocation to leaders, managers and individuals moves this towards a flow and a rhythm of behaviour and action. Then… when the practises are so embedded in the organisational culture and values that it’s just the way you do business… this is when this specific role is no longer essential.
My own experience says reaching the summit takes years, and the fluidity of organisations mean this work is rarely “complete”. So we have plenty still to do. But what an aspiration!
What do you think?
So, do you agree with the points made by Liz? What do you think this means for the future of the work we do? Please share your comments and thoughts on this fascinating aspiration on our LinkedIn channel.
Liz Clayton-Jones, Mars University Regional Manager and Virtual Content Team Volunteer
Watch Liz Clayton-Jones give this keynote speech on Transformational Engagement and the Mars Story at the Employee Engagement Summit 2015: