Engagement – the Difference between ‘Saying’ and ‘Doing’

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Engagement. Bored yet? It’s a term that has become over-used, flung around by everyone from politicians to teachers to business leaders. How often do you truly see the engagement promise followed through? It doesn’t just happen. You don’t spring out of bed on a cold November morning and shout “Hoorah! Today I feel engaged!” Something special has to happen to ignite it – and a single spark is not enough to keep it alight. Engagement needs nurturing or it may sputter and flicker out. Too often, it seems people expect magic to happen just because someone has clicked their heels together three times and said “There’s no place like Engagement”!

Perhaps we first need to agree what engagement is. Ultimately it must be about performance; gaining the public vote, getting the best possible pass rates from students or increasing employee productivity. In the business world engagement is the dynamo for success, a commercial necessity and at a base level, a mechanism to improve operational income – a few positive tweaks on the engagement needle means a substantial return.

Caburn Hope has experienced the positive results when HR has recognised that engagement is driven by behaviour, not by providing more information. Merely knowing the list of benefits doesn’t make an employee care; reading the policy on a share scheme or a pension plan doesn’t create a desire to perform. What does make a difference is recognising that we are all individuals, we all have our own lives, we do need to feel valued and be given a sense of purpose.

Communication is key. Share schemes and pension plans and other complex HR initiatives still need to be delivered. But it is vital that the communication strategy addresses the emotional and the practical needs of the individual.

Caburn Hope has delivered a wide variety of solutions that support these principles, so here are a few tips you may find helpful:

Creativity is engaging

That’s why advertising works. You wouldn’t buy a car based on the fact is has an engine and four wheels. You wouldn’t buy a mobile phone based on the fact you can call people from it. The facts are important, of course, but emotion driven by creativity, is what really clinches the deal.

Identify your key messages

Think: what does this mean to employees, why should they care? Talk to people as individuals, as someone with a family, friends, a life outside work, greater goals. Think: if I were this person, what would be in it for me?

Talk like a human being, not a corporation

Be genuine and steer clear of jargon. Use language which is appropriate to your audience, not your customers or shareholders.

Use the right channels

Consider the fact that one size doesn’t necessarily fit all. Electronic communication might work fine for your office-based employees, but how can you best reach those in field-based roles or retail staff on the tills?

Support line managers

Managers are the conduit for all types of messages, from the mundane to the life-changing. After all, people don’t leave bad companies, they leave bad managers. Equip managers with the tools to deliver messages effectively.

So: simply ‘telling’ someone something doesn’t mean it’s gone in, and simply stating that your aim is to ‘engage’ doesn’t mean you’ve done so. Communicate effectively with simplicity, creativity and relevance. Real engagement comes from a connection made with both head and heart.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place”. George Bernard Shaw

Chris Hopkins

Written by , Managing Director

Managing Director at Caburn Hope (Communications and Engagement Consultancy)

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