Employee participation is a key part of the modern workplace

Have you ever sat through a Zoom meeting with your camera off and spent the meeting doing something other than listening and engaging? I imagine all of us have had that experience in the last couple of years. There are volumes of information on how to manage better meetings, but I want to focus this discussion on the underlying issues where a company has a culture of disengagement.

Employee engagement is crucial to productivity, profitability and talent retention. Companies with high levels of employee engagement are 21% more profitable according to TechJury. A survey from Gallup finds companies with engaged employees are 147% more productive.

Many bad meetings could be canceled or better organized, but some are ignored because the culture is disengaged and fixing the meeting would solve nothing. There are several elements that matter to the rising generations of the workforce. Simon Sinek beautifully points out that past generations had much more engagement with community institutions and neighbors than Gen Z and Millennials do. The workplace is now the primary place to experience community for many. We now expect to find meaning, growth and challenges. A meeting with a comprehensive  agenda and the right invite list will never substitute for a sense of meaning.

Jonathan Haidt’s book, The Happiness Hypothesis, concludes the overarching narrative of what makes us happy with the idea that it is primarily love and work. This places a significant demand on companies, who must find new methods to provide meaning and purpose at work. Some companies have a big vision of changing the world, and when people buy into that big goal, it gives their lives meaning. However, other businesses lack it, and in these situations, people need to feel a strong sense of autonomy and purpose in their immediate tasks. In the end, they are seeking a coach and want to be heard.

Many workplaces have struggled to create effective channels in hybrid work for employees to feel heard. A study from Kahoot suggests that 23% of folks have no such channel, suggesting that the problem of meetings isn’t  the content, but rather the lack of employee involvement in co-creating the content and agendas.

If you are evaluating employee engagement and how to improve it, the best place to start might be to listen to how engaged and heard your employees are now. Try conducting a reflection exercise with your employees to add collaboration and listening. Invest in training and run employee surveys to build skills and understand what should see further resourcing. Employee engagement isn’t a button to push; rather, it’s a culture to build, brick by brick.