The usual initiatives to engage employees are paternalistic. They merely scratch the surface because they leave the conventional heroic leadership model in place. The problem with heroic, transformational leadership is that the more heroic the leader, the more dependent employees can feel.
Much of what is called employee engagement is nothing more than old motivational factors that we have known about for at least 40 years in most cases. To take employee engagement to a higher plane, we need to recognize that there are 4 levels of employee engagement. The usual initiatives such as providing clear direction, career development, good communication and creating a great place to work are all at the first level.
The second level involves teaching employees to think of themselves as self employed suppliers of services. This means seeing their managers as customers and viewing career development as business development, something they must learn to do for themselves as opposed to the current paternalistic approach of doing it to or for them.
The third level of employee engagement means moving from heroic to a postheroic leadership model. Briefly, this means that managers need to ask questions to draw solutions out of employees instead of promoting their own ideas.
The fourth level goes a step further and recognizes bottom-up leadership. Recognizing employees as leaders when they promote new products or process improvements can make them feel that they have a real stake in the organization's future.
This is a brief overview of an article I have recently written. To view the full article, click here: http://www.leadersdirect.net/articles/930/1/Four-Levels-of-Employee-Engagement/Page1.html