I love being engaged on my job. I don’t think I’ve ever been more engaged. Mostly because I directly see (and hear) the value I’m adding to the company. I’ve had other employees say they are happy I’m at the company (in conversation – not a formal recognition program). I have seen clients and employees create better outcomes because I added a tweak or two. I’ve seen ideas I offered become part of our culture.

And the company has reciprocated in many ways. Additional responsibilities, formal and informal recognition, allowing me to be tangential to the traditional job description “task” list so I can explore things that catch my fancy. (#Pro-Tip: THIS is the most valuable thing I can wish for.)

I am, by definition, hugely engaged at work.

But engagement came first – all the other stuff came second.

I was engaged because I decided to tell my boss what I wanted to do, and we reached an agreement on what it was I would do to add value to my life and add value to the company. (“No Paul, you can’t just go to conferences every week and collect swag…” – worth a shot.)

The work I did fueled the company’s relationship with me and I them. Thus, began a positive-value reciprocity loop.

Again, I will say this.

My decision to engage came first.

That created the positive reciprocity loop.

They add to me, I add to them, they add to me, I add to them. Etc., and so on.

But that must be terribly hard to communicate.

“Could you please explain that one.more.time?”

I wrote a post about a week ago for HRExaminer where I posited that after 15 years and an excess of $40 BILLION in investment, measures of employee engagement haven’t changed, that maybe, just maybe, we’re measuring the wrong thing. I used a computing metaphor of “forking” to talk about employee engagement. “Forking” is where a programmer stops working on a direction for software, puts a “fork in the road” so to speak, and starts going down a different path using the existing code as a starting point.

I said we needed to do the same for employee engagement and look for new measures for “employee engagement.” I suggested the goal should be creating positive-value reciprocity loops instead of trying to influence employee engagement scores.

The responses I got were telling…

  1. One guy went full “advertisement hidden in a comment where he “consultant-splained” using examples of “their” process that got results in “a couple of places” where they were able to create engagement and an ROI. (Thinly veiled sales pitch… c’mon – you’re better than that.)
  2. More “consultant-splaining” restating my premise as new thinking and a suggestion that if we could just all agree on the definition we’d be okay. Even thought I said that that lack of standards was a problem. So, in fact, the comment was simply restating my post but with a ton of three-syllable words.

They missed the point entirely.

I’m not advocating for tweaking “employee engagement” as it stands today. I’m suggesting that it needs to be rethought from the starting point forward.

I am saying when something only works 10% of the time,


Should You Get a Raise for Hitting 30% of Your Goals?

If you bought a car that only started 30% of the time you wouldn’t call that a working car.

If your headache medicine only got rid of 3 headaches out of 10 times, you wouldn’t think that drug was a good choice for headache relief.

Yet for employee engagement – we accept that the BEST thinking in the world will only drive 30% engagement.

Don’t tell me it’s a definition issue. Don’t tell me it’s an implementation issue. Don’t tell me it’s a communication issue.

It’s not working because I don’t think we’re focused on the things that work. Period.

30% engagement is NOT evidence that the interventions consultants are selling (and you are buying) are working (some small – “almost” statistically significant differences here and there have been seen).

Don’t tell me “your” way is different. It isn’t. Don’t tell me you’ve “been successful” in a couple of places. That isn’t a cure – that’s called an outlier.

I’m ranting because we’re so entrenched in the consultant as arbiter of truth we can’t even break out of the cage they build around employee engagement.

We need to say the Emperor has no clothes – or at least say the clothes are ill-fitting, out of style and full of patches.

Start with the Employee

Feel free to leave a comment but don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining. I’m done with that. It’s time to give up the “consultant-class” definitions and work harder on creating truly valuable definitions, interventions, processes and standards that will give employees a reason to engage on a regular basis.

I would have to have a minimum engagement levels of 70% before I would even consider an intervention successful.

My point of view…

  1. Assume employees almost always take the first step and decide to contribute. (Does any employee start with a company not wanting to contribute – to add value?)
  2. Focus first on helping employees get what they need to have a valuable life
  3. Always ask – “How do I help that person CHOOSE to engage.”

That… as Dr. Lanning’s hologram says in I, Robot…. “That Detective, is the ‘right question.’”

Image By Ivo Kruusamägi [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons