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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Should We Give Up on Employee Engagement?

By Rick DeMarco

Recently, I read a post in which the author posed the question, “Is It Time to Give Up on Employee Engagement?”  He makes the point that engagement scores have not increased despite the focus on engaging and inspiring employees, and the investment of both time and resources on this effort.

Although it may be true that organizations are spending time and resources on employee engagement, the return on this investment may not be apparent for two reasons:  length of time to see results, and commitment to a comprehensive employee engagement strategy.

It takes time to build an engaged and inspired workforce. An organization cannot expect to invest in an effort and see employee engagement scores increase dramatically over night.  Employees need to see that this is a commitment, not a short term focus intended to drive metrics.  I compare this to annual employee surveys.  Many organizations spend time and money asking employees how they feel about a number of things like the work environment, compensation structure, leadership, but then fail to do anything with the input.  As a result, they spend a lot of time and money with the survey, but see no increase in employee satisfaction.  Employees cannot be fooled.  They will recognize a sincere effort to obtain employee feedback versus a half-hearted attempt in engaging with employees.  Similarly, even with a good employee engagement initiative, if employees perceive a program as an effort to simply meet internal metrics rather than a sustained commitment to creating an engaged and inspired workforce, the organization may not see the results they expected.  

Many organizations throw out a reward and recognition program, an employee event or employee satisfaction survey, and then are surprised to see no impact on their employee engagement scores.  Employee engagement is not a one-off activity, it is a long-term commitment to creating a culture in which employees are passionate about the vision, strategy, and brand promise of the organization and demonstrate their passion in their daily interactions with customers and potential customers.  To achieve this, you need a comprehensive employee engagement strategy that drives employees through a cycle of education, inspiration, empowerment and relevancy, and includes reward and recognition. 

Giving up on employee engagement means that you are giving up on customer loyalty and satisfaction. Customer loyalty and satisfaction are continually affected by increasing price competition, technology and other economic factors, yet organizations continue to spend valuable time and resources to address these volatile metrics. 

These investments are only half the battle; organizations that do not invest in their employees and prioritize employee engagement are doing themselves and their stakeholders a disservice.  An engaged and inspired employee can make the difference between a loyal customer and a public relations disaster.  

Is it time to give up on employee engagement? On the contrary, I believe in our dynamic environment that it is important now more than ever to step up employee engagement efforts if organizations want to retain talent, foster innovation, and create loyal customers. 

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