Purposeful HR

Purposeful HR
Purposeful HR

Welcome to Purposeful HR

Welcome to Purposeful HR

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Engagement (Part I): Small Surprises and Big Results

Employee engagement. It's the ever elusive "employee discretionary effort" that most HR pros are driving to improve.  How do you measure it?  What do you look for?  Some things are more concrete than others, but I had two small moments where I thought “That’s IT!  That’s a sign of engagement.”, and thought I would share.
Recently while hosting one of our annual manager training conferences, I had moments where I observed just small snippets of conversations, but it was the history with each manager that made this special a moment.
The first manager started with us as a brand new counselor, and as a new counselor had some “growth opportunities” the first year or so. He took the constructive feedback well, worked with his manager to develop his clinical skills and became a great counselor.
Then he applied for our L.E.A.D. program (Cenikor’s Leadership Development Program – Leadership, Engagement, Accountability and Development) and has participated for the last 3 years. He's had a different mentor each year, two of which were Cenikor executives, and he has been soaking up information, asking lots of questions, staying engaged and challenging himself to achieve more. During that time he was promoted to manager to run a new outpatient program, and then promoted to senior manager over multiple outpatient programs. I was sitting just a couple seats down at the conference when he came back in the room from a breakout session and stated, "I'm really excited about my EBITDA goal!"
Needless to say, my first thought was that he was being sarcastic. Clinicians go into the counseling field to interact with and help people, not deal with numbers. When I looked over and saw he was serious, it was in that moment I knew he had fully embraced all aspects of his transition from counselor to manager, and it made my little (sometimes cynical) heart just beam.
The second moment was at the end of the same conference when facilitating a session with a group of managers, talking through their top 3 takeaways from the conference (session we do at the end of every conference). What are taking back to implement and how will it impact your work when you do it? One of the managers, also in our LEAD program this past year, was chatting about one of the takeaways. This manager is typically on the quiet side, very unassuming, but had really stepped up her participation at this year's conference. She's amazing at her job, takes so much ownership and pride in her work and the work of the team, and she recently helped open a new detox program in another location and train new staff.  Her positive attitude is infectious.  As she was chatting about her takeaway, she said "I think we should add this to our monthly agenda section What Stupid Stuff are We Doing?"
I swear, I almost fell out of my chair. That was a blog article from Patty Azzarello @pattyazzarello with azzarellogroup.com shared at our managers' conference two years ago!  This facility's management team had taken the article past the original activity at the conference, and incorporated into their ongoing operations in a much more in depth way. Exactly what you hope to happen with this type of information. I almost felt like a proud mom, thinking "they really DO listen"! :)
 I was almost walking on air when I left the conference after these two small surprise moments that told me so much about their level of engagement.  And this pride did not come from any ownership for their accomplishments, this was pride because THEY were driving forward, they were fully utilizing tools put in place, they owned their development and their engagement, not waiting for something to be handed to them.  
I agree, if you want employee engagement, it's critically important for companies to increase their "organizational discretionary effort" to use a term from Paul Hebert @IncentIntel, engagement guru with Symbolist - to knock down barriers to communication, hire the right people for your culture, train managers about the human side of managing a team, and put programs in place that pour back into the team members and their development.
But at the end of the day, the manager/team member/individual contributor must also want to grab opportunities with both hands and put in the work and keep constantly learning. It's their effort which results in their continued growth and career progression, and they get to leave their mark on the newest programs in our organization with big results.
When you combine the discretionary effort on both sides, organization and team member, it’s the sweet spot where you begin to see the impact of everyone digging in and pulling in the same direction to achieve the mission.

I hope you have the opportunity to serve and make a difference today!

Kellee Webb, SHRM-SCP, SPHR


  1. I enjoyed your blog post Kellee. One small point. I first tried on my iPhone 6+, and it was almost impossible to read. There was no white column, just the clouds. On my laptop, no problem. On the mobile, not so much.

  2. Thank you for taking time to give the feedback; will investigate and fix ASAP. Have a great weekend, Kellee