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Commitment.

To some, it’s terrifying. To others, it’s bliss.

This one word makes and breaks relationships between people the world over.

Committing yourself to someone through an engagement and potentially marriage is a wonderful and beautiful thing. It is a declaration of belief that you want to spend your lives together. At the ceremony those engaged give vows to one another to declare their commitment to one another in front of their friends and family;

For better…
For worse…
For richer…
For poorer…
In sickness and in health…
To love and to cherish…
Till death do us part.

Or;

Love them…
Comfort them…
Honour them…
Cherish them…
In sickness and in health…
For as long as you both shall live.

Every culture has their own special words that are said as forming this life-long bond between two people. It is powerful to witness such a union between a couple.

When we now move from the relationship between two individuals, to an individual and the organisation they work for, why should engagement – commitment – be any different?

We want our employees to be committed to our companies.

We want our employees to be engaged with our companies.

So, let’s treat employee engagement the same as marital engagement.

Are you going to be there for your employees and celebrate them when they are at their best? Similarly, are you going to be there when they are struggling? Will you support them through their worst times?

Are you going to reward your employees when they deserve it at all levels within the organisation? Are those with the lowest financial reward package feeling just as ‘valued’ as those on the executive boards or oversight committees?

Are you going to support someone who may be struggling with an illness for as long as it takes them to recover? Will you stand by those who may live with a mental health condition in the same way as someone who may have a physical disability? Will you help anyone who may be ill for however long to return to work in a constructive and supportive manner?

Are you going to love, cherish and honour them as more than just an employee but as an equal in this relationship?

Because that’s what all this is about.

That’s what engagement is about.

Treat someone like a resource and you will get a resource.

Treat someone like a person whom you love, care, cherish and respect and they will treat your company the same in kind.

But here’s the tricky part.

How do you know this person is the one? How do you know this is who you want to spend your life with? How do you know that this employee is ‘worth’ – I feel slightly sick writing that – that time and cost investment?

You don’t.

But then you never know that when entering any new relationship.

All you can do in a new relationship is be honest. Not just towards the other person, but also towards yourself. Any relationship founded on dishonesty – known or otherwise – will come undone eventually.

To be honest to your people; past, present and future, and to yourself as their employer, you need to look towards your company’s mission, vision and values.

Do you live by them?

An example from my past;

The mission and purpose of a well-known Big Four Accounting Firm;

“To build trust in society and solve important problems.”

With values of;

Act with integrity’, ‘Make a difference’, ‘Care’, ‘Work together’ and ‘Reimagine the possible’.

I believed in those words.

Well, they were slightly different during my time there. I think a few high-profile accounting scandals published across the national media might have had something to do with the changes!

Regardless, I still believe in this mission and these values.

I was engaged.

I made that commitment.

The problem came when I started to see what ‘Work together’ really meant, in a London-centric Corporate Finance practice. I saw what ‘Care’ meant when I was bullied for my differences. I saw that ‘building trust in society’ often came at the expense of trust with the employees. ‘Solving important problems’ only ever went as far as budget would allow and then it was left behind.

And so, as in any dying relationship, I lost hope.

I lost commitment.

I dis-engaged.

If you are truly passionate about building your employee engagement, then you must truly live and breathe your company’s mission, vision and values!

Take those statements and make them the metrics for your company. Make them the forefront of every business case or business unit review.

Did you act with integrity?
Did you make a difference?
Did you care?
Did you work together?
Did you reimagine the possible?

Only when everyone in your company; from the person on the reception desk right the way through to the Chief Executive in a corner office; believes in what your company stands for, how your company will deliver it and why it matters to more than just the shareholders!

Only then will you be ready for commitment.

Only then, will you be ready for engagement.

Andy Salkeld, Finance Director – dscvr

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