Creation of an Innovative Workforce: The Leap from Involvement to Engagement


Discussion has ensued over the event facing all levels of government as the “Baby Boomers” retire and are being replaced by the “Generation X” and “Millennial” generations. There has been a tone established that would have us believe the country is in the middle of a crisis.

The reality is that a prime opportunity presents itself to create revolutionary changes in the government workforce where agencies move from programs that merely seek employee involvement to high-performance organizations that demand employee engagement.

The dedication and service provided by those retiring from government should be recognized and respected. There is no doubt that significant world changing events occurred on their watch. The depth and breadth of those historical actions were many and very challenging. As a result a very diverse style of management in terms of command and control became the operational mode in the conduct of business.

In many organizations a transition of leadership roles has gone to those individuals labeled as “Generation-Xers”. The characteristics of this generation were formed in times of more social and political centric events. This is the generation molded in the age of media exposure and technological advances that led to a leadership style that called for instantaneous reaction.

With the mass exodus of “Baby Boomers,” the “Millennials” are stepping into the roles of supervision and management in significant numbers. It is in the atmosphere of this generation moving to leadership roles that an increase in innovation can be fostered. The tools and knowledge of technology are the natural resources that these generations possess. The speed of communication and knowledge are such that negative impacts can occur due to a lack of critical thinking and problem solving techniques. It is important to provide training to attain the skills associated with building critical thinking skills. The fundamental drive to work as a team and resolve issues collectively are additional assets that encourage innovation. The combined leadership of Generation-X and Millennial management can create the atmosphere to build a bridge from mere involvement to employee engagement.

The present expectations from the public are to receive quality products and services. In the instantaneous environment of media exposure it is unfortunate that the failures of government always make the headlines.

The current shift in leadership provides an opportunity for government personnel to foster environments that come from innovation and creativity. With the skill sets that the current generations possess in the technical and social aspects of communication, now is the time to move from merely expecting employee involvement to one of employee engagement.

Over the last twenty years there have been many programs that encouraged employee involvement. Society, in general, strives to involve employees through surveys, suggestion boxes, and events encouraging their participation. While success through these methods occurred there were also times when these approaches provided negative or stagnant results. A fundamental effect of involvement programs is the lack of need for commitment or the required need for participation.

In today’s environment of the shift in generations in the roles of supervision or management, an ideal situation is established. The characteristic traits of both “Generation X” and the “Millennials” managers lead to a setting for building employee engagement.

In the drive to achieve a total quality approach, it is important to build groups of teams that are engaged in the drive of building an outcome of quality results. Employee engagement brings the fundamental trait of ownership to the employee’s role in the organization. An achievement of engagement will provide an essential element in the drive to become a quality driven, focused entity.

If you are in an organization that has the environment to bridge the gap between employee involvement to employee engagement, I encourage you to pursue that initiative.

Darryl Perkinson is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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