Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Truth About Employee Engagement

A few weeks back Michael Carty posed a question regarding the sustainability of the term Employee Engagement. His point is well taken. HR professionals have a knack for looking for simple answers to complex organizational questions. HR Vendors have a knack for showing very little ingenuity when prescribing organizational solutions. As such, the hyper-critical importance of Employee Engagement has been marginalized to nothing more than a few buzz words.

In truth, there is no turnkey solution to Employee Engagement!

As predictable as the term Employee Engagement has become, it is a heck of a lot better than the concept of Employee Recognition.

....let's review....

It started with Maslow which evolved into Employee Benefits that created the Total Rewards Model. The concept of employee recognition followed, then Employee Engagement...Culture....and now Performance Management.

...Now that we're caught up let's identify where it all went wrong...

There was a time when employees wanted prizes for their effort. That time is gone!

Nowadays, the process is far more important than the prize. This creates a problem for 6 reasons:
1. Merit is not a commodity.
2. A company with a warehouse full of outdated gifts is no longer a viable business partner.
3. Technology alone does not create engagement.
4. It takes a in-depth consultation to formulate an Employee Engagement strategy.
5. Once the strategy is in place Communication, Learning, Adoption and Tracking are necessary to prove success!
6. The aforementioned 5 points require a great deal of involved effort!    

So the term Employee Engagement has become a worn out phrase because fulfillment houses and programmer sweat shops have pretended they have an off-the-shelf solution.....and we bought it hook, line and sinker!!!!

It's not your fault, but it's time to fight back!

Your all-star employee may have reached the apex of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Now multiply this extraordinary feat by 20,000. That is the definition of Employee Engagement.

It takes divine organizational investigation, relevant customization, total commitment to adoption, and the ability to automate create engagement. 

Interpretation: Best-in-Class organizations are dedicated to an uncompromising vision of collaborative effort.

Not up to the challenge? I don't blame you! You've been force fed a premise of Employee Engagement that is 100% bullshit! Again, it's not your fault!

The challenge before you as an HR Leader: 

  • Roll up your sleeves  
  • Find the truth in what genuinely motivates YOUR organization
  • Customize a solution unique to said audience
  • Believe with all your heart that it matters
  • Make it matter

I believe you can do it. I apologize on behalf of the collective that made you believe that padding their margins would help you create an engaged culture. 

Don't Forget to Remember!



  1. Well said, Dave.
    Maslow outlined the hierarchy of needs--with the peak experiences at the pinnacle. That assumed basic needs were met and motivation existed to reach these peak experiences. It also assumes that through this motivation, the individual is focused and engaged in their area of passion.
    Recently, I've used a method using core values to assess individual, team and organizational engagement. It is an in-depth, but worthwhile process that helps lead me to the best solution.
    Thanks for opening up the topic.

    1. Great Points Jen! Always awesome to have an expert opinion on DFTR!