Guest Post: Blue Collar Scholar, Jim Bohn – What is our Organizational Level Engagement?

Guest Post: Blue Collar Scholar, Jim Bohn – What is our Organizational Level Engagement?

Today’s guest blogger is Jim Bohn. Jim spent a career helping leaders and organizations do the work of successful change. I was connected to Jim when he stepped out of his corporate role and was answering the question, “What is the next journey for me?” I have followed his journey through his powerful articles on LinkedIn and have been impressed with the wisdom he continues to share around change and helping organizations build and sustain a healthy culture. Jim also calls himself the ‘Blue Collar Scholar’, which captures the essence of his wisdom for me. Leaders need to think about what they need to accomplish, and then they must roll-up their sleeves and do the work. I am grateful to Jim for sharing his wisdom today.

The following content is the property of Jim Bohn and is shared on this blog with his full approval. Any reproduction or use of this material without his consent is not lawful. If you like it and want to use it somewhere else, just ask him directly using the link at the bottom of the post. Also included at the end are some free resources for those of you that want to learn more.

Key question for leaders to answer: What is our Organizational Level Engagement?

Employee engagement has been around for over 20 years.  If we are honest with ourselves, we know employee engagement is now part of the routine and does not hold the prestige and impact it once held. So, as an executive, have you thought beyond employee engagement to organizational level engagement?  If your water coolers could talk, what would they tell you about the conversations your employees have when they talk about your organization?

 Key question: What is Organizational Level Engagement?

Organizations high in engagement demonstrate many of the following characteristics:

  1. A high degree of morale, specifically a desire to be at work and a desire to do work on behalf of the organization.
  2. Enthusiastic workers who want to be part of an organization.
  3. Workers willing to take on complex challenges.
  4. Workers who believe they are stronger than their competition.
  5. A track record of accomplishments.
  6. Evidence of innovation.
  7. Data and knowledge sharing.
  8. Increased speed and quality of decision-making.
  9. Effective conflict management.

It focuses on “We” not “Me”

While acknowledging that the individual is important, organizational level engagement focuses at the organizational level.  It does not dismiss the value of the individual, but acknowledges the critical nature of organizational level performance.  It focuses on how people work together across an organization to accomplish outcomes.

As an executive, you’re likely to respond: “Well, we have our financial performance metrics to tell us how we’re doing as an organization.”  True – – – but that answer is not sufficient.  Financial metrics only tell one part of the tale.  Organization Level Engagement is about how the organization is performing from a people perspective.

For example, all organizations have ‘silos’, groups of people who do not work together.  Organizational level engagement discovers pockets of silos allowing managers and leaders to improve how groups work together, sharing data and improving decision making processes.

Do your people know the mission of your organization?  Merely repeating the mission by rote does not mean they have integrated the mission of your organization with their daily work behavior.  Do your people work together?  Do they make effective decisions by considering others who may be impacted by new strategies?

The following chart describes the differences between employee engagement and organizational level engagement.

Employee Engagement Organization Level Engagement
Focused exclusively on what employees derive from the organization Focused on what the organization derives from all employees working together
Focused on individual motivation – what’s in it for me? Focused on organizational level motivation – what’s in it for us?
Focused on ‘local’ issues such as environment, pay and benefits Focused on organizational level outputs such as customer satisfaction, data quality, and leader effectiveness across groups.
Focused on the leader the individual works with each day Focused on how all leaders work together each day and throughout the year
Focused on “Me” Focused on “We”

 Senior executives should ask, at the beginning of every fiscal year, during a fresh start:

  • How well do we work together as an organization?
  • Do our people truly know the goals of this organization?
  • Are we (leadership team) setting an example of decision making and cooperation at the top?
  • How sharply are we focusing our efforts on things that really matter and jettisoning things that are a waste of time?

Senior HR people should ask:

  • What are we doing to help people across our organization work together better?
  • How are we training our people to share data and make better, high quality decisions with the organization in mind?
  • What are we doing to help our teams become more resilient in the face of project setbacks?

Employee survey or in a small group conversation, leaders should ask (and record to evaluate trends across the organization):

  • What prevents our teams from working together?
  • How can we help our employees understand where they fit into the overall mission of the organization?
  • What one thing do we need to improve at the organizational level to perform at a higher level? (Expect some to say, “pay increases” but look for other trends such as restructuring to improve communication pathways.)

*Jim has published his research in this area and his Bohn Organizational Efficacy Scale is part of that research. If you want to learn more about his research and survey please contact him directly.

By taking this important step and investigating organizational level engagement, you will improve the effectiveness of your organization, leading to increased profitability and improved employee satisfaction.

Did Jim’s words and wisdom resonate with some of the challenges you are feeling in your organization? As you come up on your yearly planning, would you like your leadership team to spend some time on some of these critical questions, and use the answers to listen and act differently in 2018? Visit Jim’s website or email Jim directly at james.bohn@att.net. Here are some other resources to take a deeper dive into this topic:

Architects of Change: Practical Tools to Build, Lead and Sustain Organizational Initiatives by Jim Bohn, Ph.D.

The Nuts and Bolts of Leadership: Getting the Job Done by Jim Bohn, Ph.D.

LinkedIn: What makes an organization tick? Employee engagement is not the answer (1 of 173 articles Jim has shared on LinkedIn)