The Mother of All Engagement Surveys: It Happens Every Election Day

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Today is the only day that I love the thought of standing in line.

I enjoy the energy and excitement of Election Day. I’m an involved citizen! I’m doing my duty!

Early voting holds absolutely no appeal to me. I want to be part of this presidential Election Day that only happens every four years. Between studying every poll, reading too many blogs and constantly checking Twitter for the latest political info – I’m engaged.

Engaged people are willing to do things they don’t like to do (like standing in line). They are engaged because they buy into their role, an outcome they want, or how they will feel in the end.

Julie’s husband, Jay, just had major surgery and wasn’t supposed to even leave the house. Yet, he insisted that she load him in the back seat of the car so he could go vote. After lying down to get there, he gingerly stepped into the voting booth and made sure he got his vote in during early voting.

Jay is clearly engaged.

Engagement is personal

You don’t have to go far to learn that voter engagement isn’t the same for everyone. In this election, voters are willing to stand in line because:

  • They want the economy to improve.
  • They care about women’s rights.
  • They want to lower taxes.
  • They want to protect the environment.
  • They believe in a candidate.
  • They want to exercise their right as a citizen.
  • They have concerns about immigration.
  • They just don’t like the other candidate.

You get the point. Each of us are there waiting in line to vote for different reasons.

And, many voters are committed in spite of the odds. Take the Republican in New York – who may not even have her electricity back yet – who heads to the polls when her vote won’t change the electoral outcome for her state. Or, the Democrat in Oklahoma who takes off work to vote knowing his presidential vote probably won’t affect the outcome for his state either. But, they do it anyway — because they are engaged.

Elections and creating engagement

Election Day is pretty interesting for those who spend our days trying to improve engagement and make organizations better. It teaches us that engagement is a multi-faceted topic and will never be one-size-fits-all. It’s because organizations are made up of individuals.

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The complex American electorate teaches us some wise lessons:

  • Everyone is different, so provide choice whenever you can — on everything from building a career to how to best deliver work.
  • Motivation comes from belief in people, issues or just to prevent something from happening. When we are motivated, we will endure some discomfort to contribute.
  • Commitment and engagement are based on who we are and what we believe. Those closest to us are in the best position to know what matters most. This is why the belief that “someone cares about my career” is one of the most significant factors in retention and commitment to an organization.

Engagement is personal

Engagement plans must recognize differences and diversity and build on it as strength, not a limitation. It may be providing choice on how someone can create a career that suits them, getting more people involved in changing how work is done, or making sure the manager knows how to motivate and lead.

Engagement is powered by motivation and appealing to causes we care about. It’s personal.

These are the same reasons why we voters are willing to stand in lines even when we aren’t sure if our vote will change the outcome. Or, when we keep working for a cause whose time has not yet come. That’s because at the end of the day, it matters to us.

No matter what your motivation, hopes or concerns, please remember to vote — even if the line is long.

This was originally published on PeopleResult’s Current blog.

Patti Johnson is the CEO of PeopleResults, a change and organizational development consulting firm she founded in 2004. She is the author of newly released "Make Waves: Be the One to Start Change at Work and in Life." Patti and her team advise clients such as PepsiCo, Microsoft, 7-Eleven, Accenture, Frito-Lay and many others on creating positive change in their leaders and organizations. Previously a Senior Executive at Accenture. Patti is an instructor on change for SMU Executive Education and for the Bush Institute Women’s Initiative, as well as a keynote speaker on change and leadership.

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7 Comments on “The Mother of All Engagement Surveys: It Happens Every Election Day

  1. I’m glad you emphasized the point that when a person knows someone cares about his/her career, that can be one of the most powerful motivators of engagement. So important!

  2. Totally agree – cookie cutter programs don’t work to build engagement. It has to be personal to mean something.

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