When the topic of em- ployee engagement comes up, all heads wivel toward the
communicators in the room. How will
you make employees more engaged?
We’re often expected to do the heavy
lifting through better storytelling and
But engagement is not entirely
up to communication practitioners.
John Smythe, in his new book, The
Velvet Revolution at Work: The Rise of
Employee Engagement, the Fall of Command and Control, posits that engagement must come from leadership.
An organizational engagement and
communication consultant, Smythe
defines engagement as more than
employees who go the extra mile and
willingly give discretionary effort to
support the company. He believes
people engage themselves when they
are invited to contribute to everyday
operational decisions as well as to big
issues such as tough budgets, layoffs or
battling a hostile takeover.
In other words, engagement happens
when employees are given deliberate
and organized opportunities to have a
say in decisions that affect them.
I’ll admit, The Velvet Revolution took
me on a bit of a roller-coaster ride. I
found it simultaneously comforting—
it didn’t blame the internal communication function for not doing enough
to foster engagement—and disheartening. If your leadership team is a
command-and-control hierarchy, with
little chance of decision making spilling down the org chart, is there hope?
Good news. Even if leadership at
the top is not about to share decision-
You say you
want a revolution
Engagement is a two-way street—give people the opportunity
to contribute, and they will
Work: The Rise
the Fall of
by John Smythe;
Gower Publishing Ltd., 2013;