I don’t think Employee Engagement is a score following a survey, or a series of pulpits for ‘employee voice’, or internal festivities and fairs. Yes, all of the above are symbols and artefacts of engagement. But I recognise engagement when I see one, and it does not get better than an employee telling me about my client-employer ‘I am here like fish in the water’.
This expression, or around it, means freedom, comfort, alignment, and all the rest. I want ‘fish in the water’ employees for my clients. The water may be a bit muddle sometimes, or turbulent, or Colorado rapids style, but, hey, we are all here together in this.
In my old(er) classification of employee engagement I distinguished between engagement ‘with the company’ or ‘within the company’. Both may overlap but for sure they are not the same. ‘Within the company’ engagement may be achieved via multiple initiatives such as a ‘cause’ (green, what I called ‘NGO inside’, social responsibility, charity time, etc). This is not the same as ‘with the company engagement’, that is, engagement with the specific purpose, vision and goals of the company. A ‘fish in the water’ employee may be found in both.
But if we are talking serious alignment, we are talking ‘fish in the water’. At least, this is a reasonable aim for leadership. At least to explore.
‘Like fish in the water’ means I don’t have to go around ‘explaining culture’. The individual habitus (a more complex anthropological concept than habits, and an old Aristotelian one) fit in: the rapid absorption of unwritten rules, the spontaneous ‘can I help’, that often heard expression from relatively new employees: ‘it feels like I have been here for many years’, all of the above.
There are not fixes for this, not a clear cookbook, sorry to disappoint. But that ‘conceptual place’ is clear and deserves leadership time to think about it, and to think how to shape the fish bowl, or the big aquarium.