Over the last couple of decades, Employee Engagement has started to become more and more important to companies. Early data showed how much time and energy companies lost to a disengaged workforce. In recent years, organizations have started making huge efforts to fix the Employee Engagement problem. Yet despite millions of dollars of investment, the average number of engaged employees has only risen 3% in the last almost 20 years. So, what’s the problem?

At a fundamental level, employees don’t feel a connection with their companies. The relationship cultivated from their first day on the job perpetuates a feeling of obligation. Employees tend to feel like once they have provided the work their companies have paid them for, then they have fulfilled their obligation and are typically content provided the minimum to get by. Employees don’t feel connected with their organizations on an emotional level. If organizations want to see real change, they’ll have to start focusing on curating a working relationship such that employees feel truly connected with the company.

To make that change happens, organizations must stop focusing so exclusively on the numbers. Yes, employee engagement stats are an important metric. Yes, increasing retention is a huge bump the bottom line. But at the end of the day, it’s about the people. It’s not about the numbers. When organizations can honestly say that they care most about connecting with their employees, then they’ll find the engagement stats rise organically.

Furthermore, many of the past efforts of boosting engagement have missed the mark. Quick fixes like beer Fridays, snacks in the break room, or casual dress don’t move the needle. This failure stems from the lack of efforts that the company exerts when they do these things. While they think they are showing how amazing they are to work for, most employees see it as an attempt to make them more loyal. It doesn’t work.

In a recent podcast with Lewis Garrad, he discussed another major factor to employee engagement. He related that about 50% of the tendency for employees to be engaged at work can be traced back to their personality, and that those type of people that tended to be more engaged shared a similar set of cognitive characteristics. He warned that while it may be tempting to hire based on those characteristics, a workforce full of individuals who are all more inclined to be engaged would prevent cognitive diversity and promote group think tendencies. Listen to the full podcast at Forging the Employee Experience and follow Lewis Garrad on Twitter at @LewisGarrad or connect via email at lewis.garrad@mercer.com.

Employee Engagement can be boosted, but there is not shortcut to success. Organizations will need to look place the ineffective low hanging fruit, stop focusing on the numbers, and commitment to creating a workforce full of positive connections.

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