Saving Lives and Livelihoods with Digital Engagement
To stay physically alive in this corona virus pandemic, we need to stay more apart. How can our jobs and businesses stay alive when customers as well as employees have to be socially distanced from one another?
The great digital transformation (e.g., Kane et al, 2015) has already solved perhaps 20-30% of this problem by enabling cost- and time-efficient online business across distances. However, most business and work is still being done with people being in close proximity with one another.
One main reason that has limited digital transformation from taking over even more business and work is that most of us are engaged by interacting with other people. Research has found that employee engagement is one of the key factors delivering proven positive effects for both employees and organizations (Larsson & Kling, 2017)
At the same time, the “perfect storm” that has combined the pandemic and a sharp business decline is fueled by massively disengaging job and health insecurity as well as draconian restrictions. A key to turning these multiple crises around is to find ways to engage ourselves more while we are forced to be socially distanced in order to stay alive.
Currently we are breaking the world record for the number of people working from home every weekday and will continue to break this record for months to come. How many checklists of “how to work better from home” have you seen these last few days or even weeks?
While these checklists are well-intended and useful, most if not all of them are limited by being generalized to all readers. The engagement problem with general advice is that we have different engagement drivers and killers. For example, if you ask people individually about what engages and disengages them most in their work, you will typically get quite different and colorful stories.
The Decision Dynamics Career Model™ is a useful tool for better understanding and managing how different individuals are engaged. It consists of four fundamental career orientations:
EXPERT careers are oriented towards long-term specialization. Their main engagement drivers are refining quality and in-depth knowledge, while their main engagement killers are disruptive changes and incompetence.
LINEAR careers are oriented towards higher leadership. Their main engagement drivers are competitive performance and improving efficiency, while their main engagement killers are indecision and lack of clear goals.
SPIRAL careers are oriented towards broadening experience. Their main engagement drivers are creative teamwork and people development, while their main engagement killers are narrow-mindedness and destructive conflicts.
TRANSITORY careers are oriented towards swiftly changing variety. Their main engagement drivers are job rotation and freedom, while their main engagement killers are strict rules and stable routines.
For example, Experts are engaged by long-term, stabilizing work aimed at refining quality based on their expertise, while needing to be protected against disruptive changes. In contrast, Transitories love changes that involve a variety of job tasks, new places, and new people. They would hate being stuck with constraining routines, rules, and long-term planning.
One of the many reasons that studies like Gallup find that as few as 10-30% of us are engaged in our work is that organizations as well as managers tend to approach all employees in the same way, as if they all have similar engagement drivers & killers. The key to higher employee engagement is to recognize, adapt to, and trust the talent diversity of individual employees and their various engagement drivers, while protecting them against their various engagement killers.
This is made more difficult by many us not even knowing ourselves what engages us the most. Our research shows that around 60% of us are aiming towards a career orientation that is not the most engaging for us. We can greatly improve this career self-awareness by answering a 15-minute CareerView questionnaire. In turn, these individual career insights can then easily be shared with one’s manager and colleagues. Enabled by these insights, we can help one another to become more engaged.
In normal situations, real face-to-face interpersonal interaction has the double advantage of driving extroverts’ engagement and more richly experiencing how other people change in terms of what engages them, and by how much. Currently, digital interaction has suddenly become vital for both life-saving social distancing and job-saving digital working from home. We really need to overcome barriers to digital engagement, such as the mistaken belief that there is one universal way of engaging others digitally.
More than ever, digital engagement will require managers and co-workers to learn our own various engagement drivers & killers and those of others. The golden rule of engagement is not to engage others as you want to be engaged yourself. It is to engage others by finding out and adapting to what engages and disengages each of them the most. (Larsson & Kling, 2017)
The Career Model is a great tool and language to simplify learning both our own and others’ engagement drivers & killers. It also helps us to respect, trust, and adapt to these various drivers & killers so we can help one another to become more engaged as we digitally interact.
Equally great news, the same golden rule of engagement also applies to how we can engage one another more in real physical interpersonal interactions once we are no longer forced to socially distance us. The best investments we can make now are those that can help us both during these present corona times and in future, post-corona times.
Rikard Larsson, Katarina Kling, Raj Bowen, and Chris Hardy
Decision Dynamics & EMA Partners
Kane, G C, Palmer, D, Phillips, A N, Kiron, D & Buckley, N (2015) Strategy, not Technology, Drives Digital Transformation. MIT Sloan Management Review.
Larsson, R & Kling, K (2017) The Engagement Guide: Engaging Leadership and Career Development. Lund, Sweden: Decision Dynamics.