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January 2013
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TD Magazine

The Importance of Being Known

Relationship building and employee engagement go hand-in-hand.

Intelligence9

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Building trust and leading authentically are major tenets taught by the leadership industry today. Engagement also is a chief topic of interest for organizations that want to invest in their human capital while prospering their business.

The latest research from New Jersey-based consulting firm BlessingWhite reveals that these two areas are connected: As a manager, becoming known as a person is one of the biggest facilitators of engagement.

According to Fraser Marlow, head of research at BlessingWhite, "Too many managers are still hiding behind their titles. Through training and development, we can help them shed those insecurities and make better use of personal skills to engage in purposeful dialogue with team members. This builds the trust they need to partner with team members and start working individual engagement drivers such as career, clarity on work priorities, making use of—and developing—skills, and so forth."

The research also shows that managers often separate employee engagement from the organization's most critical work. However, one in 10 workers reports being disengaged because of a lack of challenging work, and one in four cites a lack of opportunities "to do what I do best" as her source of frustration.

"In reality, it is the ability to contribute, and to feel our contribution is valued, that makes us more satisfied at work," Marlow explains. "Employees crave the opportunities to put their skills to use, to further develop those skills, and to learn new ones. In turn, by being more satisfied, employees are willing to work harder, be more flexible, and contribute more ideas to the team."

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Building engagement is about unleashing individual strengths rather than trying to fit people into specific molds or giving them skills training to-do lists. Managers should use their personal relationships with employees to learn what makes each person tick and ensure that employees feel the organization values their talents.

"We're finding that highly disengaged people are not using their core strengths," Marlow adds. "People have a strong sense of attachment to their skills, and organizations need to understand and use those skills better."

About the Author

Community of Practice Manager, ATD  Ann Parker is senior manager of the Human Capital Community of Practice and the Senior Leaders & Executives Community of Practice at ATD. Prior to this position, she worked at ATD for five years in an editorial capacity, primarily for TD magazine, and most recently as a senior writer and editor. In this role, Ann had the privilege to talk to many training and development practitioners, hear from a variety of prominent industry thought leaders, and develop a rich understanding of the profession's content.

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