Before you get all excited know this is NOT a post about “Smiling Bob” and Enzyte.
This is a post about reframing a discussion around employees and their relationship with the organization.
We all know that employee engagement is the new black. It’s also the new orange. It’s actually the whole rainbow of colors. If you’re not talking about employee engagement you’re not worth your salary anymore.
All this time and treasure that we have spent on employee engagement has netted us absolutely nothing. Nada, zero, zip. Over the last 10 years engagement scores has stayed static or dropped and nothing seems to change them. I’ve suggested that we’ve just simply trained our employees to scam the surveys in order to get more perks and benefits. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that every time that they cause the employee engagement score to drop they get another benefit to the total rewards package. I also have suggested that engagement has always been a one-way street. Companies continue to look for ways to drive additional performance and additional work, in order to reduce costs and therefore increase profits. But there’s really been little focus on caring about the human in the equation. Most companies care more about the outcome on the balance sheet. The mere fact that we talk about the ROI of employee engagement means this is a financial discussion and not human one.
One of the things that struck me the other day is because we have a negative association with employee engagement and because so many people have so many different definitions and we really don’t have a great way to measure it, why not just reframe the issue and walk away from engagement. What if focus on terms that really communicate what organization SHOULD be doing. One that employees may actually appreciate and connect with.
So consider this:
What if going forward instead of thinking about employee engagement we talk about employee enhancement?
What if the focus of management and HR was on enhancing the employee’s abilities and enhancing their lives instead of worrying about engagement?
What if the focus was on making sure they got what THEY needed first and the organization gets what they need second?
If organizations truly want engagement, and they want employees to trust them, why shouldn’t the organization take the first step. If companies want trust, demonstrate trust. Yes, it’s risky. Yes, it may cost money. Yes, it’s not what the normal people do. But I’ll bet that if you went out with an employee enhancement program, employees would pay attention.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking that first step and look for ways to make your employees better, both professionally and personally, and then lay out what that quid pro quo might look like. Employees aren’t afraid to work. They’re not afraid to add value to your organization. What employees are afraid of is being taken advantage of. And just packaging your next “productivity push” under the engagement banner doesn’t hide the fact that you’re more worried about profits than people.
Ask yourself, should you be more worried about employee enhancement or more worried about employee engagement?
Are your employees worried about being engaged or would they want to be part of something that enhances their lives – professionally and personally.
I think you know the answer.
November 4, 2015 at 3:32 pm
Great article, Paul! You really put things into perspective here. I think a paradigm shift from productivity/profits to people is a great one. I’ve worked at companies where they try to explain budget cuts and mass layoffs as “good for the employees.” Nobody buys it. In fact, I was insulted at how dumb my former employer thought I could be! At my current job, everything is completely different. Everyone supports everyone. And, people feel like they are making others’ lives better by doing their best work. I cannot even begin to explain how happy everyone is to go to work every morning! The difference between the “engagement” v. “enhancement” culture is huge. Thanks for sharing this.
November 4, 2015 at 3:34 pm
Thanks for taking the time to comment. Such kind words. It is still amazing to me that companies are having a hard time figuring out that people like to work at companies where they have human beings being human. Seems like a no brainer! Appreciate the readership and the engagement.
November 5, 2015 at 2:49 pm
Good points. I really think the focus on ROI for engagement programs stems from the idea that executives will only listen to/agree with initiatives that have that bottom line impact, so we stress the financial impact of such efforts. We fear they won’t buy into or understand the “soft” impact of a human workplace. As you point out, though, that perspective fails to recognize that a different approach (enhancement vs. engagement) will ultimately have a positive business effect.
November 8, 2015 at 11:39 pm
I always like to ask what the ROI of phones are? We assume they are needed and necessary. Why can’t “enhancement/engagement” activities be considered needed and necessary and also exempt from ROI discussion?
November 7, 2015 at 12:06 am
Reblogged this on Gr8fullsoul.
November 8, 2015 at 8:44 am
Hi Paul, love this, beautifully put, what a fabulous article.
What do you think really needs to ‘happen’ to make this shift, and is the time now? Interested in what you think.
BTW interesting to see that I also had a curious reaction to the term ’employee’ .. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t suggest we get all hipster .. But does ’employer:employee’ with all its symbolism, actually really fit anymore?
November 8, 2015 at 11:41 pm
Good point Emma – should we reframe that as well? We’ve tried with associate or team member – but we all know that behind closed doors they all use the “e” word…