5 Lessons in Organizational Engagement from Honeybees

by David Zinger | Posted | Engagement

5 Lessons in Organizational Engagement from Honeybees

Organizational engagement is the final element in the ten elements of engagement in the Engagement Everywhere series that has been running on this site over the past year.

Most organizations and enterprises tend to focus their engagement efforts on what the organization and leadership can do to engage employees. Organizations ask: “How do we get more from employees and what levers do we need to pull and what drivers do we need to push?” The problem is that levers and drivers are antiquated metaphors for how we work in 2015.

Zinger wheel of engagement organization

Work, organizations, leadership and management are undergoing multiple simultaneous changes. For an excellent outline of this I heartily recommend the document produced by Virgin: The B Team, New Ways of Working.

The authors outline how global developments; the technological revolution and multigenerational workforces are creating changes in purpose, growth, leadership, well-being, and offices. The old ways of organizing and the pyramidal boxed organizational chart diagram of hierarchy, control, and lines of reporting are being redrawn.

A new conceptualization of organizational and enterprise engagement

If we tear up our old organizational chart we need a new way to conceptualize work. I suggest we use the metaphor of honeybee hives to represent our organization.

bees representing organizational engagement

Honeybee Screen Time © David Zinger 2013

I invite an organizational disruption by asking you to think differently inside your organization by imaging your organization functioning like a hive. As a personal experiment, for 3 years I spent part of my summers putting office objects and computers inside honeybee hives. I wanted to see if I could engage with honeybees (the short answer to this question was, sometimes – much like a workplace if you think about it).

Five questions to think differently inside our hives

I believe that we have much to learn from these small indefatigable workers and even a honeybee can be a teacher.  Here are 5 questions on organizational engagement drawn from honey bees:

Bee social. Work cannot be done alone and we need to work together. A hive does not exist without a collective of workers working together. These workers know they belong to the hive. Honey bees dwell in a social medium of waggles and work teams. How can you creative an authentic social buzz at work that fosters greater social connection for the benefit of all?

Performance is Queen. Honey bees don’t create needless new performance management systems to achieve performance. They are wired to know what is expected not only of themselves but from all within the hive. Failure to perform has definite consequences regardless of whether a bee is a drone, worker, or queen. Are you making performance the true glue to your culture and organization?

Keep communicating. Honey bees waggle with democratic urgency to make decisions and assist each other in finding vital pollen for the production of combs and honey. The average bees spends about 20% of her time in the hive not attending to tasks but standing around seemingly picking up social communication within the hive. How can you create an organization where people waggle while they work so everyone is in the know about what is occurring and going to occur in the organization?

Add value incessantly. Honey bees are prolific pollinators adding billions of dollars in value to our various food crops. They also return to their hives and create phenomenal honey. What needs to occur in your organization to ensure that value is being constantly created within the organization and externally for customers?

One small step for the individual, one giant step for the organization. Thousands of honey bees comprise a hive. Each individual bee only makes small steps yet collectively they produce a phenomenal community work force making a difference for earth. Park the striving for a big moon shot in your organization, instead ask: what are the smallest most significant and sustainable actions that will make a big difference?

Is your organization a buzz with engagement? Does it come alive and offer support and value through out? To learn more about what bees can teach us about organizational engagement I encourage you to read my free e-book based on attempting to engage with honey bees for 3 summers: Waggle: 39 Ways to Improve Human Organizations, Work, and Engagement.

Who knows what you can accomplish when everyone is committed to thinking differently and acting socially within their organization or hive.

Next post in this series: A Summary of Engagement Everywhere.

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How to attract, engage, and retain top employees

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