I recently returned from Chairing the Second Annual Employee Engagement Conference in Barcelona sponsored by Teneo Events.
Here are 8 lessons from the two days at the conference and being a tourist in Barcelona:
Comprehending complexity. Employee engagement is an incredibly complex undertaking in organizations with thousands of employees spread around the globe. I have an enhanced respect for the challenges and contributions of employee engagement specialists in large multinational organizations and I salute the conference participants who are so engaged in their engagement work.
Question questions. Do we believe the answer to employee engagement is asking another question or a better question or should we call surveys into question? Yes, I know the importance of data and research but I see far too many surveys that result in bell curves and depleted precious resources that could heighten rather than just measure engagement.
Engagement score. I attended an FC Barcelona game where 100,000 fans paid large sums of money to be fully engaged with their football team. It made me think that maybe if we could get our employees to wear jerseys and pay for their seats in their cubicles we might foster more engagement. Seriously, we should study major sports teams and learn how they create such passionate and engaged loyalty and determine how we could transfer this to our organizations.
Engagement legacy. I, along with just about every other tourist in Barcelona, was in awe of Antoni Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia. I salute his genius and vision and ability to conceive and begin to construct something so powerful. The church may be completed in 15 more years, 100 years after his death. It made me think about how short a view we have in most organizations (generally we want 1/4ly results) and what kind of employee engagement legacy we with to leave behind?
Conference voices. The conference featured a powerful pluralism of voices on employee engagement..
- Peder Anderline from Credit Suisse taught us to look at employee engagement data in new and creative ways, such as excel heat maps, and to use data as the invitation for leaders and managers to improve engagement.
- Kate Erskine from Aviva taught us the power of yellow, “get me…get the plot…get it done,” and the journey of Aviva’s corporate brand promise.
- Jonathan Matthews from the Hay Insight Group taught us how stylish leaders can create amazing results. Styles range from “do what I tell you” and “come with me” to “do as I do, now” and ” “people come first.”
- Sarah Cook from Stairway Consultancy led us through group WIFI and how to achieve excellence in employee engagement knowledge.
- Jonathon Scott, a former Green Beret, taught us about heart from his military experience and being human in our organizations to produce robust and authentic engagement.
- Guillaume Delacour taught us about the Goodyear Dunlop path of employee engagement and offered us a “good buy on tires.” I believe in employee engagement, this is where the rubber meets the road.
- Todd Holzman from Cambridge Leadership helped us create powerful and honest engaging conversations based on analysis, attention, agreement, and action.
- Wenceslao Rios from Pepsico International taught us about the challenges of engagement work in a very large organization and the intricacies of the Pepsi generation.
Miro’s simplicity. I visited the Miro museum and was impressed with the chronological perspective of Miro’s work and his striving to create “maximum intensity with minimum means.” His art is a trigger to feed imagination and encourage meditation. We must balance the science and mathematics of engagement with the authentic art of engagement and Miro gives us a model of simplicity to communicate through the complexity.
Oui, si, yes. I was in awe of how the European delegates were so comfortable with so many languages and might speak in 3 languages while holding a two minute conversation with another person. I believe we must learn to speak the many languages of engagement (mathematics, geometry, psychology, anthropology, science, arts, etc.).
Engaged communities. Barcelona has a rich community history of architects and artists. I was impressed at the conference with how we came together as a community. In the evening between Day 1 and Day 2, twenty-two delegates went out together, sat together around a large square table, and shared a meal and more conversation. If organizations fail to become rich and diverse yet connected communities they will be thwarted in achieving high levels of authentic engagement.
Picture Collage taken and created by David Zinger, April 2009