HSE & Sustainability

Four Cs Decode the Engagement Enigma

The solution to solving the engagement enigma may be clearly demonstrated by the 4Cs—career, competence, care, and culture—which show that the key process to ensure engagement is the underlying synergy created by starting a career, acquiring competence, demonstrating care, and creating a transparent feedback culture throughout an organization by encouraging continual professional development.

Vector of two businessmen standing in front of a keyhole shaped as a question mark
Credit: Feodora Chiosea/Getty Images/iStockphoto.

The lack of consensus on what engagement is has led to many different ways to gauge it and inconsistent advice on how to achieve it. Vague or overly broad definitions hamper effective action or what should be done.

The solution to solving the engagement enigma may be clearly demonstrated by the 4Cs—career, competence, care, and culture—which show that the key process to ensure engagement is the underlying synergy created by starting a career, acquiring competence, demonstrating care, and creating a transparent feedback culture throughout an organization by encouraging continual professional development (CPD).

A sustained focus on employee engagement over the past decade has been key in getting progressive people-management practices firmly on employers’ agendas.

It has also faced considerable criticism, however, not least because of a lack of agreement on what it is. “Engagement” is an umbrella term to describe a multifaceted focus of people management. Employers can shape their view of engagement to suit their context or strategy.

By focusing on specific and well-established definitions, group of occupational psychologists at Utrecht University in 2004 originally defined “engagement” as a positive, fulfilling, work-related state of mind that is characterized by vigor, dedication, and absorption. Engagement refers to a persistent and pervasive affective-cognitive state that is not focused on any particular object, event, individual, or behavior.

“Work engagement,” therefore, is defined as a positive, fulfilling, state of mind in which employees show

  • Vigor (energy, resilience, and effort)—Vigor is characterized by high levels of energy and mental resilience while working, the willingness to invest effort in one’s work, and persistence in the face of difficulties.
  • Dedication (for example, enthusiasm, inspiration, and pride)—Dedication is characterized by a sense of significance, enthusiasm, inspiration, pride, and challenge.
  • Absorption (concentration and being engrossed in one’s work)—Absorption is characterized by being fully concentrated and happily engrossed in one’s work, whereby time passes quickly and one has difficulties with detaching oneself from work. Being fully absorbed in one’s work comes close to what has been called “flow,” a state of optimal experience that is characterized by focused attention, clear mind, mind/body union, effortless concentration, complete control, loss of self-consciousness, distortion of time, and intrinsic enjoyment.

Employee Engagement
Since this approach was first proposed in 2004, work engagement has evolved to become what is currently known as the slightly broader concept of employee engagement, which may now be defined as “a fundamental concept in the effort to understand and describe, both qualitatively and quantitatively, the nature of the relationship between an organization and its employees.” An engaged employee is one who is absorbed fully by and enthusiastic about their work and so takes positive action to further the organization’s reputation and interests.

The three most significant factors contributing to engagement are

  • Career development opportunities—When employers continuously invest both time and money in their employees’ development at the workplace, employees will realize that the company is also interested in the progress in their career. Start providing employees not only with formal learning programs but also with the opportunity to practice their newly acquired skills and knowledge on the job.
  • Adoption of a learning culture—This is an organizational culture that encourages employees to keep learning and acquiring new knowledge all the time. An employee who understands that their employer is interested not only in making profits and sales but also in improving and educating all of their staff will soon learn to appreciate the company’s learning culture and will become engaged in the company’s goals.
  • Leadership culture—This is the working relationship that leadership and management have with all employees. Good management is critical to the success of retaining and engaging employees.

Together, these three aspects form the basis of a solution to the engagement enigma. From a risk-management perspective, they provide a subtle, suitable, and sufficient synergistic solution. Each may be suitable in isolation, but none of these on their own is sufficient. Together, however, they provide an answer to the ongoing problem of engagement as the 4Cs of career, competence, care, and culture.

When individuals join an organization, they expect to build a career with it. If the top management and immediate managers spend dedicated time on carving out the careers of its employees, the employees will feel that they belong to the organization. They feel engaged when they receive support from the management in growing their careers.

An organization can provide its employees with opportunities to grow professionally through job rotations, indulging them in significant tasks, challenging assignments, and promotions. They should also be given a specific level of authority and autonomy to make decisions on their own. The organizations prepare an entirely new breed of employees if they genuinely invest in developing the careers of their people.

Competence is about the ability to grow. Regular workshops and training sessions must be held to help employees acquire a higher level of skills and competencies. The focus should be on developing for marketable skills. Most employees, after spending a few months with an organization, look for competence-boosting opportunities so that they can grow and move to the next level of their careers. While the career focuses on the actual growth in terms of designation, wages and perks, and authority, competence is the ability to grow using the opportunities.

Care is regarded the finest art of the managers by which they can make employees feel they are an indispensable part of their organization. The managers need to be empathetic and sensitive toward people and understand their personal problems. Showing small day-to-day caring gestures toward employees makes them feel that they belong to the organization and that the organization belongs to them.

Most organizations do not realize that human interaction is perhaps one of the more important elements in keeping the employees geared up to perform their best and enhance their competency levels. It is not only a basic need but also the soul of an organization that keeps it going.

Everyone who interacts with employees, including top management, senior leaders, and immediate supervisors, plays a vital role in shaping the mentality of an individual.

A key need is well-designed programs to enhance the morale and improve the performance of employees by enhancing their engagement level through human interaction because the process of employee engagement involves behavior management.

Continual Professional Development
From the 4 Cs, the key process to ensure engagement, comes the underlying synergy created by starting a career, acquiring competence, demonstrating care, and creating a transparent feedback culture throughout an organization by encouraging continual professional development (CPD). That is why it is so important and why it does matter. CPD is important because it ensures people continue to be competent in their profession. It is an ongoing process and continues throughout a professional’s career. When a professional becomes qualified is not the end of their education, just the first part. It is not the time to relax. Every year, a new generation of graduates armed with the current state of the art is at your heels. The same is true for professionals with many years of experience; their only advantage is years of applying that knowledge through training and experience to gain additional skills and eventually to demonstrate mastery. The ultimate outcome of well-planned CPD is that it delivers safeguards and benefits to the public, the employer, the professional, and the professional’s career. CPD ensures that your capabilities keep pace with the current standards of others in the same field.

CPD ensures that you maintain and enhance the knowledge and skills you need to deliver a professional service to your customers, clients, and community.

CPD ensures that you and your knowledge stay relevant and up to date. You are more aware of the changing trends and directions in your profession. The pace of change is probably faster than it has ever been, and this is a feature of the new normal in which we live and work. If you stand still you, will get left behind as the currency of your knowledge and skills becomes outdated.

CPD helps you continue to make a meaningful contribution to your team. You become more effective in the workplace. This helps you advance your career and move into new positions where you can lead, manage, influence, coach, and mentor others.

CPD helps you stay interested and interesting. Experience is a great teacher, but it does mean that we tend to do what we have done before. Focused CPD opens you up to new possibilities, new knowledge, and new skill areas.

CPD can deliver a deeper understanding of what it means to be a professional, along with a greater appreciation of the implications and impacts of your work.

CPD helps advance the body of knowledge and technology within your profession.

CPD can lead to increased public confidence in individual professionals and their profession as a whole. Depending on the profession, CPD contributes to improved protection and quality of life, the environment, sustainability, property, and the economy. This particularly applies to high-risk areas, or specialized practice areas that often prove impractical to monitor on a case-by-case basis. The importance of continuing professional development should not be underestimated. It is a career-long obligation for practicing professionals. Sometimes it is mandated by professional organizations or required by codes of conduct or codes of ethics. At its core, it is a personal responsibility of professionals to keep their knowledge and skills current so that they can deliver the high quality of service that safeguards the public and meets the expectations of customers and the requirements of their profession.