The Naked Emperor And Employee Engagement: It’s NOT Working

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Present And Future Of Employee Engagement, and The News Is Bad, Really Bad By Robert Bacal

In a recent report from Josh Bersin, estimates of ANNUAL expenditures on employee engagement initiatives is about three quarters of a BILLION dollars. It’s hard to find articles on improvement in the workplace that do NOT mention engagement. It’s certainly THE buzzword of the century, yet there’s scant evidence that the construct, and the practical applications of employee engagement are having ANY positive effect.

In this section we’ll look at both the good and bad news about employee engagement but here are ten points to keep in mind.

Six Absolutely Critical Things You Need To Know About Employee Engagement

  • The costs of measuring employee engagement, a rather pointless process can be as high as $400 per employee, according to one report. Measuring something doesn’t improve it, and that money is better spent on things that directly impact employees’ workplace life (e.g. affordable child care).
  • Despite years of investment, there is no evidence that employee engagement has increased. In fact, it’s the opposite.
  • It’s likely that it’s simply NOT possible to increase employee engagement in a company ENOUGH to impact the bottom line. That’s because the factors that determine employee attitudes AND work behavior have less to do with what the company does than who they are and their existing values.
  • Since employee engagement processes are undertaken to benefit the company, and it’s clearly so, employees can perceive them as manipulative, a way of squeezing more work from them without paying them more. That’s more likely to anger them, then encourage them.
  • There is no evidence that employee engagement causes better performance. There are only studies that show a correlation. It may be that more profitable companies have better engaged staff, because they are profitable, and do a lot of other things better than companies with less engaged staff.
  • Some research suggests that the best performers in companies actually are less engaged than lesser performers, suggesting at least that the construct is wrong.

For some additional information about how employee engagement has become a billion dollar a year boondoggle for companies, please visit our issues page for employee engagement. You find twenty six analyses, including research that will surprise you.

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