As much as we may like to believe otherwise, human beings really aren’t all that complicated.

Steven Parker wrote a piece over at the Live HR blog recently about why everyone seems to be getting employee engagement wrong, and he makes the point that we may be thinking too hard about how to drive what’s increasingly becoming the Holy Grail of the corporate world.

People, he said, when you boil it down, want to feel great about working. If we can make them feel great about working, then employee engagement will naturally go up, and it will take company performance along for the ride.

He goes on to offer three tips that boil down to letting employees know their efforts are leading to something important, having a clear mission that your employees can care about, and recognizing your employees for their work.

Parker wasn’t the only person in the HR space writing about engagement this week, and he wasn’t the only one saying that employee feelings are a driver of engagement, even if they didn’t say so specifically.

A feeling of accomplishment: Tim Wright, on the blog at TalentCulture, said that, while it may be instinctual to try and drive engagement with perks and incentives, it’s not a strategy that will work in the long term. Instead, focus on the opportunities you’re providing employees.

“They want opportunities to stretch their at-work muscles. That muscle-stretching shows itself as extra time put in to complete a project. It looks like putting forth energy to understand what the customer truly wants. It has the sweet sounding hum of a team working as a unit to refine a process improvement. It shines like the Aha! lightbulb [sic] when the right answer is learned and the problem is solved.”

In other words, employees want to feel a sense of accomplishment. They want to feel like they’ve contributed to the team’s goals in some way.

Maintaining a feeling of excitement: The first day at a new job is a bit like the first day of school. Employees are excited by the possibilities. They don’t know what’s going to happen, but they know that they have a new start. What a shame then, when new employees come into a new position and, on that first day. the feeling of excitement is quickly killed by a mountain of paperwork that must be filled out.

That’s why Kevin Grossman argues at the People Fluent blog that companies need to take a hard look at how they onboard new hires. because that may be where they are losing the engagement battle.

Instead of concentrating on the paperwork, companies need to focus on immersing new employees into the corporate culture and making a great first impression. Often, that starts with a little creativity:

“Companies can invite the new hire to come in before their first day to get a tour of the office, meet their colleagues or set up their workspace. In addition, the company can offer webinars or online training to help the new hire prepare for their new role, or share videos from executives welcoming them to the company. At the very least, the hiring manager should have a phone call with the new hire to ensure they have what they need to start their new job.”

Parker makes the point over at the HR Live blog that there’s been a lot of effort to make HR seem less soft, and part of that is getting away from talking about things like “feelings.” It’s possible, however, that feelings have been one of the keys to engagement all along. What are you doing to make sure your people feel great about the work they’re doing and the company they are doing it for?

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