The Fallacy of Employee Engagement

There’s a lot of noise about employee engagement. What’s the big deal? Why are companies constantly putting out surveys and measuring the level of engagement within their four walls? Do ping pong tables and beer carts really work?

Gallup shows that disengaged workers are costing America $300 billion annually in lost productivity. Conversely, highly engaged workers are less likely to make work errors or use  as sick days. So, what have American companies done to inspire the disengaged worker? In 2016, they spent $4 billion to help increase employee engagement to no avail. There was no change in employee engagement, positive or negative.

The idea that you can create employee engagement is a fallacy. Companies that have highly engaged employees aren’t chasing an engagement dream. Rather, they are fixated on the actual employee relationship. Constantly asking themselves if they’re doing the best things for their employees, these companies are looking to form a true and genuine relationship. And like any great relationship, they are giving to give, not to receive. When you focus on engagement, you are treating your employees as a transaction: “I give you X = you produce Y.” Companies need to be genuine. They need to care about the human.

How do you create this culture in your company? You cultivate the human potential. You breathe life into your employees, treat them as an individual and help them grow. You find out if they’re inspired, if they’re empowered, what their aspirations are and who they are when they go home and shut off for the day. You create a circle of trust where people feel comfortable to take down their walls, take risks and think bigger than themselves. By doing this you will create a system of values + beliefs + behaviors. Culture.

Start with your team and start tomorrow. Ask yourself about each individual on your team. Do you know them? What makes them tick? What makes them happy? Are they inspired at work? Where do they want to go from here? If you don’t know, find out. Focus on the employee relationship and start embodying a human centric approach within your circle and then move this outward.

As senior leadership, They cannot simply buy into it, roll it out or delegate it. You have to live it, breathe it and be it. Senior leadership sets the emotional bar. You’ll find that by being the best version of yourself you allow others to make a positive impact and in turn build an impressive business.

Read our full SXSW recap here.

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