David Zinger is an engagement speaker, coach and consultant who has written four books on leadership, work and engagement. In this interview he shares his views on what it means to be an engaged employee, and how the very notion of employee engagement is being re-sculpted by new technology and changing workplace attitudes.
This is the fourth in a series of interviews with professionals who are driving digital transformation in a range of industries, and who are experts in their field.
1) Tell us a little bit about yourself and your experience in employee engagement.
I have spent over 20,000 hours on engagement and worked around the world on the topic, from Singapore to South Africa and Dubai to Berlin. I founded and host the 7 200 member Employee Engagement Network, we will have been in existence nine years this December. Additionally, I live on the Canadian prairies and believe we all need to be on a level with each other for engagement. I wrote four books on engagement, my first was Zengage: How to Get More Into Your Work to Get More Out of Your Work. The last two books focused on being a People Artist, someone who draws out the best in others. I have been engaged with social media for over 11 years, and can remember when there were only about 20 of us who blogged on leadership, management, and business and most people thought we were just weird.
2) What does it mean to be an engaged employee?
It means a great deal to be an engaged employee, as work can make you well. It is a place for meaning, significance, and contribution. You are personally responsible for engaging people, so it goes with you wherever you go. I define engagement as: good work done well with others every day. 8 simple words that can make a world of difference at work for us each day.
3) Why should companies care about employees’ engagement with topics that stretch beyond their own work and objectives?
It all comes down to the ABCs of engagement. Achieve results. Build relationships. Cultivate well-being. Engagement is not about drivers and levers, it is all about getting work done with people; as today’s employees do not work for a company, they work with a company. To survive, engagement must also benefit all. This is not some flavor of the month or decade – engagement is how we work, manage, and lead in 2017 and beyond.
4) How has the traditional concept of employee engagement been transformed by social media and technology?
It has made things even more social and real time. If we are not transparent in our organization, information will flow out anyway through so many channels. Technology can be a great tool to connect with people and there seems to be nothing quite so engaging as humans are with their smartphones. We need to charge up our phones just about every day and we need to charge up our employees. I think we are rapidly shifting from a narrow focus on employee engagement to a more powerful focus on work engagement; and social tools and technology can facilitate that process. I went from one person to 7 200 people on my engagement network; and this is just a little side hobby site for me, not my main work. It would have been impossible without social media and a variety of great technology.
5) What are some of the key employee engagement challenges for companies that are going through digital transformation?
Everyone needs to develop engagement and enablement with digital tools. As most tools are neutral, it is what we do with them that makes all the difference. Our challenges are to stay real, make work and people psychologically safe, and also let digital transformation actually make it more possible to be the humans we are.
6) What role should executive management play in employee engagement? How can companies go about facilitating collaboration across hierarchies?
Executives must remember they are employees too. Get connected and drop the outdated concept of upper management and realize we are all on an equal level even when we have different roles and functions. As a prairie boy born in Saskatchewan I never saw a real mountain for many years, and I still don’t see mountains (or hierarchies) of people in organizations. No human is really above another human and we must learn to “level” with each other. We need to create more psychological safety for the benefit of all. I invite everyone to engage along with me. For the best is yet to come as we learn to engage fully in achieving results, building relationships, and cultivating well-being.
We would like to thank David for collaborating on this blog post. Stay tuned for the next installment in our expert insight series!
Miss the first three installments? Catch up on them here: