Amen and thank you…yesterday the bloggers at Commscrum posted a piece on how it was time to retire the term Employee Engagement: Time to say good night to Employee Engagement. I nearly fell on my knees weeping with gratitude. Cause you know what I am soooooo over the concept of employee engagement. Really over it. I urge you to read the post, the comments are as insightful as the original post and it draws attention to critical issues for communications professionals. I agree that it is time to retire the term, and indeed the focus on employee engagement, but my reasoning is a little different. Let me explain:
1) Function follows form
You don’t need a program to improve employee engagement; you need a program to improve management skills and capability. Employee engagement is an outcome of good management. Simple. It is more time, cost and results efficient to intervene with a small group of people (managers), than on a large group (employees).
2) Get it right in the first place
If you have your strategy, structure and pricing models right, then you don’t need your employees to be expending ‘discretionary effort’. If you need ‘discretionary effort’ then you are doing something wrong. If an employee wants to go the extra mile, that’s fab, but you shouldn’t be depending on it.
3) Treat the cause not the symptom
Increasing employee engagement does not help a disengaged workforce. Workers who are disengaged require performance management. They may be disengaged for a number of reasons (perception of injustice, boredom in role, unmotivated by career path). Treat the cause not the symptom.
4) Beware the wrath of a highly engaged workforce scorned
When you have encouraged your workforce to be highly engaged you have raised their expectations of treatment, involvement and results. A small disappointment in a highly engaged workforce snowballs into a major organisational injustice and you are left with a cynical workforce.
As Mike Klein has made the point, the original intent of Employee Engagement was not manipulative. And I get that, I do. But my sense is that we have moved far away from that initial intent. I think retiring the term would be wise, and resurrecting good management, and strong internal communication. You never know, you could just end up with employees who enjoy their jobs, talk about it to others, and even work a little bit harder than the norm….
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