Creating a Climate of Engagement - From the Classroom to the Office

In browsing business blogs and journals, information about employee engagement is everywhere. The articles explore definitions, discuss the impact of disengaged employees and offer direction in dealing with these issues in the workplace. 

What happens when we shift our attention from what is happening right now back to our first experience with engagement? What do our early experiences of being engaged in learning tell us, and are they indicative of our level of engagement when school is replaced with work? Are disengaged employees the “grown-up version” of disengaged kids? 

In their article entitled “Using Engagement Strategies to Facilitate Children’s Learning and Success,” authors Judy Jablon and Michael Wilkinson identify the psychological and behavioural characteristics of engagement. Engaged learners are ‘on task’, and use their “minds, hearts, and even their bodies to learn.” They are “intrinsically motived by curiosity, interest and enjoyment, and are likely to want to achieve their own intellectual or emotional goals.”[i]  

Jablon and Wilkinson are strong proponents of actively establishing a climate of engagement in the classroom. When strategies for promoting engagement are not present, there is often a negative impact on the children in that environment. They are at risk for disruptive behaviour, absenteeism, and eventually dropping out of school. On the flip side, research demonstrates a strong correlation between high levels of engagement and improved performance, attendance, etc. This is true for school children, and I would argue that this is also true for adults.

The authors present a list of strategies to create a climate of engagement for children in a school setting:

  • Activate prior knowledge 
  • Foster active investigation
  • Promote group interaction
  • Allow for choice
  • Include games and humour
  • Support mastery
  • Nurture independent thinking

These strategies for classrooms have proven results when it comes to increasing the level of engagement in children. Many of these are also useful to consider in the context of your organization. While some are more relevant than others, and some better suited to certain personality types than others, all are wise strategies to consider as a starting point in the conversation about engagement. After all, engagement is a choice - it can’t be mandated. Leaders who consider these issues and incorporate strategies for engagement are likely to see results – employees who don’t simply stay ‘on task’ because they have to, but who bring something more of themselves to their work and to the organization as a whole.

What do you think are the best strategies to increase employee engagement?

[i] Jablon, Judy R. & Michael Wilkinson. 2006. Using Engagement Strategies to Facilitate Children’s Learning and Success. Young Children.  March 2006: Innovative Practice in Early Childhood Education

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