Authentic employee engagement
I was quite surprised to find an article in the CIPD journal this month entitled ‘How to Build Authenticity’. It included seven steps to help you build your authenticity as follows:
- Reality check
- Be a good role model
- Communicate effectively
- Think positively
- Embrace change
- Do the right thing
- One for all and all for one
Source: People management – 14.10.10
Now these are all good steps, and yet I found myself feeling quite uncomfortable when reading the article. Here’s my problem. When you look up ‘authenticity’ in the dictionary it says ‘known to be real’ and ‘genuine’. Having to follow a series of steps, however well intentioned, suggests that authenticity is a process and can therefore be run like software.
One of the aspects of the Antiques Road show I enjoy is the expert trying to spot a fake. To their expert eye it is often quite easy to do. The forger has analysed the elements and qualities of the genuine article and has effectively developed a process that he believes will fool many people into believing they own the real thing. Quite often the forger succeeds and therefore the process works for them. However once the expert has revealed the reality of the piece people are quite rightly upset and sometimes quite angry. They feel cheated and their trust has been abused.
If managers believe that they can process authenticity in this way, is it any surprise that UK Employee Engagement has reached an all time low? Some will of course be fooled, but many of our employees are experts and as such will quickly spot the fake. At best, following a processed approach to authenticity will be like a smile that does not reach the eyes. We can practice smiling, we can force our facial muscles to generate a smile on demand (ask Gordon Brown), but the eye movement is involuntary; if the smile is not genuine it will not reach the eyes.
So authenticity must be real, it must be genuine. Don’t try to be authentic; be authentic. Believe in the value and talent of your employees and be yourself. That is how to authentically engage employees.