If you’ve ever wondered why caring about employee engagement is important, the above intimidating statistics may catch your attention. Yet, the conversation among business leaders is rarely on whether or not employee engagement is important (it is!). The disagreements instead lie in how to improve it. Employee engagement is a tricky problem to diagnose since it depends on an intricate set of drivers from across the organization, including ones outside of the employee’s defined role, such as Work/Life Balance, Physical Work Environment, Play, People, Sense of Accomplishment, Brand Alignment, and more.
Figure 1. Drivers of Employee Engagement
Source: “Employee Engagement in Theory and Practice: Why Should You Care About Employee Engagement?” (2015) Microedge.com. MicroEdge, LLC.
With limited time and resources, what should leaders focus on? Research points to the following as the top four issues to improve engagement: Role Design, Organizational Identity, Career Ladders and Community.
Figure 2. Employee Motivation Ranked by Company Process
Source: McGregor, Lindsay, and Neel Doshi. “How Company Culture Shapes Employee Motivation.” Harvard Business Review, 20 Apr. 2016.
At limeSHIFT, all of our workshops establish collective intention setting. We help employees connect with their own source of purpose and connect that with the people and environment around them (People, Place and Purpose). Under this lens, we view Role Design as more than the tasks assigned to the employee. Effective Role Design means an individual has a clear purpose within a collective context. It helps to set boundaries, empowers individuals within the collective and creates ownership by building out spheres of influence (see our methodology in Figure 3). Thus, our work also influences both Organizational Identity and Community.
In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Paul Leinwand and Varya Davidson discuss how Starbucks savvily utilized its culture to promote strategic initiatives. The bottom line:
“Let people bring their own emotional energy to an enterprise where they feel they have a stake… thus leverage the company’s culture to bring its strategic identity to life.”
Two key ideas jump out of this statement: “their own emotional energy” and “stake.” Translating into limeSHIFT terms, we see “individual purpose within a collective context” and “ownership.”
People, Place and Purpose.
Align individual and organizational values and give people a sense of ownership in the company and employee engagement will drastically improve. We know because we’ve seen it. The spark of excitement from a new collaboration. The renewed vigor for work. The pride that tilts an employee’s chin up slightly higher. Those are the clear signs of engagement that we get to see after a limeSHIFT workshop.
Figure 3. limeSHIFT’s Co-Design Methodology
I used to have a full-time art practice – a space where to concentrate on my process and create my own work. While I accomplished a lot, I also had time to deliberately do nothing. When I moved to New York it became too expensive to be an emerging artist and maintain a full-time art practice. Most artists in New York take on jobs and “work on my personal stuff on the weekends.” Though often it is difficult to muster up the energy to do so. In fact, many emerging artists work in jobs associated with the arts but purposefully not in creative positions to avoid being “creatively drained.”
As an idea, I disagree with the premise that there is a cap on creativity. Working in a creative position at limeSHIFT doesn’t hinder my ability to create my artwork. It does take time away from my practice but it doesn’t take away from my inner dialog and thought process. Nothing stops me from thinking about how I create and the materials I use.
The only way to get an idea is knowing you need one. Creative ideas and concepts for artwork don’t happen in the studio alone. The inspiration for your work can come from anywhere and from doing anything – it’s the practice of opening yourself to it and contemplating it. Being trapped in a studio can limit your exposure.
Talking about your work is an important part of the process for an artist – it helps you articulate your thoughts into tangible actions. As the Artistic Director at limeSHIFT, I am exposed to many artists and learn about their processes. Usually guiding them through how their practice could work with limeSHIFT and help execute their vision.
I recently completed a visual artist residency at BRIC and will be heading to MacDowell in September. Throughout this time I am given space to actualize my thoughts and create the artwork that rests in my mind. Luckily, limeSHIFT understands this relationship with my work and allows me to juggle these responsibilities. Before I set foot in these studios I have a clear work plan and the rough idea on what I would want to accomplish. However, the nature of making artwork isn’t that precise and experimenting in the studio is a large part of creating.
While creating this work and working at limeSHIFT – I learned that being a practicing artist and employee in a company takes a lot of planning. But if it is something you want to pursue, it is important to work for a company that is willing to foster that relationship.
How can art affect and transform space? This question not only guides our work at limeSHIFT, but also serves as the subject of much discussion and contemplation in the greater art world as well. As the definition of “art” continues to change and expand, more and more artists are responding to that very question, creating site-specific works in populated public spaces. So, what kinds of answers are these artists proposing? And how can we extrapolate meaning from their abstract works?
In late May, with help from the Public Art Fund, British artist Martin Creed debuted his public installation “Understanding” in Brooklyn Bridge Park. The piece consists of a rotating, 25-foot-tall red neon sign that reads “Understanding,” and is on display on the park’s Pier 6, making it visible from the Brooklyn Bridge and parts of lower Manhattan’s waterfront. Concrete seating surrounds the base of the massive, spinning neon attraction. “Understanding” both interacts with and imposes on the space around it. From its arresting location to its striking subject matter and literal glow, passersby cannot help but engage with Creed’s work.
While the piece itself is quite a physically imposing presence, it’s more figurative impact on the space seems to be the opposite. Usually, big bright signs serve to advertise products, telling their viewers what to think, do, or buy. In this case, however, Creed has designed the opposite into his piece: ambiguity. Challenging the typical uses of the medium at hand, “Understanding” asks questions rather than answers them. Impossible to ignore, the glowing sign invites hundreds of people per day to think about what understanding means to them.
Martin Creed’s piece in Brooklyn Bridge Park serves as a powerful example of the ways in which art can affect and transform its surroundings. In the middle of a bustling New York City park,“Understanding” reminds the busy passersby to pause, contemplate, and perhaps even try to understand what it means to understand. As Creed so deftly demonstrates with this piece, one of the most powerful ways art can affect the atmosphere of a space, either physical or figurative, is to actively engage with that space, engineering a level of ambiguity into the work that allows for dialogue to emerge between the art itself and its viewers. In the spirit of Creed’s work, I encourage you to bring your own experience to the piece now and engage in that dialogue as we do at limeSHIFT. So, what does understanding mean to you?