Not One Company Asked Their Employees About Engagement and You Won’t Believe What Happened Next…


Coming in hot from a trip to the west coast where I had great conversations and less great sleep. Nothing says “good sleep” than an economy coach seat, a hyperactive seat mate, no window and a faulty overhead air blower. #Winning! But I shouldn’t complain… as Louis CK says:

“‘I had to sit on the runway for 40 minutes.’ Oh my god, really? What happened then, did you fly through the air like a bird, incredibly? Did you soar into the clouds, impossibly? Did you partake in the miracle of human flight and then land softly on giant tires that you couldn’t even conceive how they put air in them?…You’re sitting in a chair in the sky. You’re like a Greek myth right now.”

I’m living the life of what my pretty recent ancestors would have attributed to the gods. Call me an tired and grumpy Zeus (oh to have his abs).

But I digress. Here’s a couple of no-sleep points of view on this Friday.

  1. Opinion and conversation about employee engagement are now good substitutes for study and research. Once again I watched as a discussion Employee Engagement blew up into an opinion cage match – everyone weighing in with an opinion on what engagement is, how it is imbued, who’s responsible. This says one of two things: One – there is no research on employee engagement or Two – the research isn’t making any sense.
    .I fall in the second camp. The studies cited by many use different criterion. Much of the corporate sponsored “research” is thinly veiled polling designed to support their product/service. There are multiple definitions and multiple solutions for the same problem.
    I have my opinion. They have their opinion. The discussion on engagement has become a push and the losers are the employees.
  2. Laurie Ruettimann wrote a new post entitled: “Metrics Mess Up Every Job, Not Just Yours” in which she states:

    “You’re measured on stuff that matters to someone else but probably not you.”

    Simply brilliant summation of where we are in the quest for engagement. Here’s a thought. Maybe engagement is measuring things your employees think are important to them and the company. Maybe engagement means exactly what it says – engaging with your employees.

The one thing that both of these discussions always remind me of is that most engagement initiatives designed by companies are impositions on employees. Something the company does to them.

Maybe we should take a clue from the word engagement and sit down and listen.

Maybe we should design engagement from the employee’s point of view and stop doing it from Finance’s POV (ROI, P/L.)

As a manager, I always believe people are competent first.

Maybe we should believe employees know what is needed for them to be engaged and reach out to them and enlist them to design the “engagement initiative” from their point of view?

I know – right?

Have a great weekend. And as Jean Luc says – “Engage!”



8 responses to “Not One Company Asked Their Employees About Engagement and You Won’t Believe What Happened Next…”

  1. MarsEille Anderson Avatar
    MarsEille Anderson

    One of my largest clients started metrics this year. I don’t know how it’s effecting the bottom line, but the staff has reacted. What used to be happy, productive people are now paranoid, unhappy people. They feel that they have to always watch their backs and document everything.


    1. I’m still a fan of measuring things in order to track and celebrate progress. But if the employees are feeling paranoid then either the metrics are wrong or the managers are. People typically like to know they are having an impact and are valuable. Thanks for reading and engaging!


  2. Isn’t engagement just ‘discretionary effort’? As long as you are getting your employees to do that, does anything else matter?


    1. Ankita – you are correct. One of the many, many “definitions” of employee engagement is the them leveraging their discretionary effort on behalf of the company. And… if all you want to do is get more work for less pay out of your employees then that would be okay.

      But isn’t that one-sided? Doesn’t that definition and application mean that the company is simply looking for yet another way to take advantage of the employee? My question/point of view is that thinking that way is one-sided and really doesn’t provide any value to the employee.


  3. Read Buckingham’s “First Break all the Rules.” The Gallup Q12, while agreeably may have its own agenda, and Buckingham’s conclusion, basically, What (particularly, emotional) outcome are you looking for?” Then, do what’s necessary to get your employee there within both the manager’s and the employees wheelhouses, not outside of them. The first part, outcome is easy. The second part, get them there, is why managers are paid, but they rarely live up to their salaries.


    1. Thanks for the comment Vincent. I have read all of Mr. Buckingham’s stuff and there is great wisdom and data to back it up. Unsurprisingly it always comes back to “be a good manager of humans” and “treat your employees the way you want to be treated.” Nothing really earthshattering in that advice. My point was that most companies don’t even consider the employee needs when it comes to engagement – it is something the company wants. Very few managers approach engagement as a service to the employee and that is why our employees are disengaged and in some instances actively sabotaging the company they work for.

      Give before you get should be the manager’s first lesson.


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