Is Employee Engagement Dead?

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I admit I do like the Employee Engagement (EE) Network, a group of some 6000 people brought together by master facilitator and EE consultant David Zinger, someone for whom I have great respect.  Recently, a member posted a discussion online, on the subject of this post, which I have been really enjoying.  Well OK perhaps at times some of the posts drive me crazy, like the ones who say that there is no proven connection between EE and performance (like customer satisfaction, profitability, productivity or worker health)….WHAT?  My co-author and I have even written a whole book…on this exact subject!

So today I braced myself for some anger-mail back to me and put a post on the network, fueled in part by some of the misinformation, but also arrogance of some of the self-appointed “experts”, who think that they…and only they…hold the keys to the high engagement Kingdom…sigh.  Here is what I said:

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Sharon, a few thoughts:

1.  Management loves fads…MBO anyone?  I think anything can become that, especially when it reaches the level which EE has reached.  Before EE there was…and still is…morale, its cousin. But morale never became sexy enough to reach fad status, so it has endured, chugging along since WWII till now.  Remember, it is good enough for the military….

2.  With fad status, people come out of the woodwork as “experts”.  Like the apocryphal story that when a taxi driver gives you stock tips, the market has topped, perhaps when everyone gives EE advice (or becomes a “life coach”) it is time to find another field.  Its not there yet (with EE, it surely is for “life coach”)….but sometimes I shake my head at what people say, even in this discussion.  Like our leader David Z, I am also wrong half the time, but having said that there there are a few established facts:

–the connection between EE and performance is not “squishy” but rock solid and supported by great research, including peer reviewed academic work.

–underneath the national EE averages quoted here, many great companies have found the secret to high EE, so to say that only a select few individuals know what to do to achieve this (some of them gracing us with their presence here!)… is plain silly and quite arrogant.

–it is not clear to me that one size fits all; yes of course one needs to treat people well, but does high EE at a nuclear power plant contain the exact same elements as at Google?  By necessity, the cultures are quite different…..

–speaking of Google, they survey the heck out of their workforce, both annually (with a long survey, 100+ items) and monthly.  Of course that’s not all, an army of in-house Ph.D.s then goes to work to analyze the data and there is extensive follow on.  So to the survey haters here I ask, is this a badly managed company?  Do you think perhaps they get something from their surveys which they cant get any other way, or are they too stupid to know how to do that?

Just a few thoughts to add to the discussion….

David

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To see the original discussion, go here:  http://employeeengagement.ning.com/forum/topics/what-happened-to-employee-engagement?xg_source=activity

To join the Employee Engagement Network, go here:  http://employeeengagement.ning.com/

(Picture By Robert Lawton (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons)

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LinkedIn profile/contact: http://www.linkedin.com/in/davidbowlesphd

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