Economic slumps that periodically shake the world spur the drive to rethink issues that seemed peacefully embraced. One of the concepts that we must rethink, even if downturns linger on, is engagement.
For a long time, engagement was tantamount to unhesitatingly staying put in a particular professional, personal or familiar position. Someone who was engaged did not beg to differ and, despite the woes, put up with the burdens of an unusual situation.
These suppositions no longer apply. For many, engagement is not with external situations or people, but with the long-term project itself. The realities that respond to circumstantial whims have become drivers for successive actions. So in stable economic environments people will flit from company to company due to financial incentives as well as the perception that it is time to face a new challenge.
As with almost everything in life, nothing is never black or white, but instead numerous shades. Was what we had before good? Depends… Is the current scenario insurmountable? Depends… Engagement must be mutual. If it becomes lopsided, it will soon breakdown. This is borne out in testimony when companies in full swing have dispensed with their human resources to slim down and clean up the company. These companies cannot do an about-face and raise the flag of engagement demanding unconditional loyalties.
Organizations have to reconcile group and individual needs. If all that is important is the group, bloodless human sacrifices will be made on the organizational altar raised for this case. If on the contrary, the focus is on the individual, a solid project becomes unworkable as without both sides making a sacrifice no solid initiative can be created.
Engaging others in a goal requires considerable effort of whoever is promoting this, as the mistake least pardoned, today and in the past, is the discrepancy between words and behaviour. Forging ahead, clearing paths is the most consistent message that each one can embrace to create engagement.
Moreover, let’s not forget that in any group of people, a percentage of naysayers will emerge who, no matter what, will always be contrary.
Individuals and organizations generate engagement through deeds and not statements of good intentions. Offering second chances and not abandoning anyone at the first sight of change are essential measures, as is being able to make quick decisions when a core of naysayers insist on putting a spanner into the works of the organization.
The tipping point of balance between people and organizations is different across sectors, periods or specific characteristics. Those who do not seek balance passionately end up hurting one another. A good start is to think that what is good for people is good for the organization. And what is bad for people will never be right for the organization, at least in the medium term.