The dilemma of securing commitment from employees

Unlike the chicken and the pig, securing commitment from employees is not an either-or choice
Barry Shannon

A CHICKEN and a pig are walking down the road together, when the chicken says: ‘Hey, I've got a great idea; why don't we open a restaurant together?' The pig replies ‘that's interesting, but what would we call it?'.

‘How about Ham and Eggs?' the chicken suggests. The pig thinks for a little while and then says ‘Sorry, I'll pass on that. Unfortunately, I would be committed but you would only be involved'.

Therein lies one of the great challenges of HR in the modern workplace - how to secure commitment from employees.

Funny enough, unlike the chicken and the pig, it's not an either-or choice. It's not commitment good, involvement bad. It's actually the case that having employees ‘involved' is one of the first steps towards commitment.

Think about this: it's very difficult to be fully committed to something you don't feel involved in. Look at sports for example; the avenues for people to become involved are myriad; coaching, managing, playing, spectating, reading, listening, debating, purchasing. All of these are designed to make people feel involved in the club or the activity and once they become involved you add a little passion and it quickly turn to commitment.

Once you have commitment, well, that's a different level altogether. Mickey Harte quotes George Zalucki, who referred to commitment as ‘doing what you said you would do, long after the mood you said it in has left you'.

Involvement is a great step, but if you don't like it you stop. Commitment means that, even in the bad times; when your team is on a losing streak, when you can't swing a nine-iron to save your life, when the wind is howling and the rain lashing on the roads you still drag yourself up and out.

So how do you foster commitment in an organisation? The first step is make sure people understand what they are doing and why. This starts with your onboarding, your induction and carries on throughout the employee's career via training and development.

You also need to clearly show your employees how their work links to the overall vision and success of the organisation. You remember the old story about JFK and the janitor? JFK rocks up to NASA and meets a fella mopping the floor. JFK asks him what he does, to which the man replies “I'm helping put a man on the moon”. Both involved and committed.

What else can a company do? Another key aspect is listening to the employee. Whether that be via 1-2-1s, company briefings, employee forums or staff surveys, you should always have some means of effective two-way communication with your employees. Can you really be committed if you can't voice an opinion?

Beyond that you look at branding and how the company is viewed in the wider world; is your place known as an employer of choice and somewhere that employees can be proud of? Do the values and mission of the company resonate with your workforce?

Then ask if your company shows commitment to its employees? Does it have a strong career structure? Does it offer training and investment in them? Can they grow professionally and personally in your company? Are there promotion opportunities? Do you reward them appropriately? Is there a wellbeing strategy in place and are the benefits first class? Do you support them and give them the right information to do their job? Do you provide the right leadership?

If you can answer yes to many or most of these, then you are likely well on the way to securing commitment.

:: Barry Shannon ( is HR director at Cayan in Belfast.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access