Engaging Your Employees: Lessons From Kindergarten

I read the article, “I Want to Work There!” in Training magazine last night. The article shared engagement secrets of Fortune’s 2012 100 Best Companies to Work For and Training’s Top 125 and Top 10 Hall of Fame lists. The overall point of the article is that the more employees are engaged, the more organizations see in their business outcomes—things like revenue, operating margins, and customer satisfaction. As my 11-year-old son would say, “DUHHHH!”

The research states that the top three factors to employee engagement are recognition, career development, and the relationship you have with your manager. This information is simply common sense. We all like to feel valued for our contributions. We all feel better if we have a clear progression plan. And let’s face it—your manager can either make or break your engagement. You can work at THE best company with all types of perks, but if the relationship with your manager is lacking… well, you might as well throw the other stuff out the door.

In all seriousness, I don’t mean to criticize the article. They included a few success stories of how companies have enjoyed success linking training and engagement, which are definitely noteworthy. My intent is to simply question why corporate America tends to struggle with the concept of how to engage employees. It isn’t rocket science. All it takes is little common sense. Robert Fulghum summed it up best in his essay, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”

Here are the key lessons: Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Live a balanced life. Learn some and think some. Draw and paint and sing and dance. Play and work some everyday. Take a nap every afternoon. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. Be aware of wonder.

If we practice these very same principles in our corporate life, I bet we’d see a jump in engagement because we’d be touching people’s hearts and minds—their emotions. After all, engagement is the emotional commitment people have to the organization and its goals. When we’re emotionally committed, we’re willing to jump through hoops. It’s as simple as that!

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