Some really scary stuff is how much money companies are spending on Engagement Surveys and how little is happening as a result. Bersin & Associates came out with a  report this year entitled, “Employee Engagement: Market Review, Buyer’s Guide and Provider Profiles,” (yes, it can be yours for $995) and here is what jumped off the page for reporter John Holton:

The research shows that organizations currently invest approximately $720 million annually in engagement improvement, including both outsourced and internally developed programs. Only 50 percent of the potential market has been tapped, with half the organizations stating an interest in engagement programs actually investing.”

Frankly, if one adds in all the time spent by people reviewing the numbers and the reports and generating ideas and “action plans,” the number would be a LOT higher than a billion dollars.  Organizations are trying to improve employee engagement and getting data about how they are doing — Bersin projects that the costs will eventually be a LOT higher — $1.53 billion. And if things simply continue, companies will have little to show for the spending other than a check-box on some Human Resources Management Competencies List that they have asked for ideas or some such thing.

Employee engagement has actually significantly DECLINED
from 24% down to 13% in the past two years
(Mercer, 2012).

Obviously, there is little visible impact from all this spending so this “engagement fad” should be doomed to go away. What is worse than that:  What truly lousy messages does all surveying and meetings send to the base of employees who feel they are underpaid and ignored? Employees KNOW that these surveys cost a big bunch of money and they SEE that year after year, their input gets ignored while the company does not have the money for any pay increases…

So, what do we actually do? Well, I am sure that precise solutions will vary. But you can pretty much rest assured that doing nothing differently will guarantee you the same results.

You may remember The Six Phases of Implementation:

1 – Enthusiasm for the initiative
2 – Disillusionment with initial results
3 – Panic as things fall apart
4 – Search for the Guilty
5 – Punishment of the Innocent
6 – Praise and Honor for the Non-Participants

This is how many people view how organizations respond to teamwork and the implementation of improvements. Obviously, that changes when people are asked to go through such a process the second time!

But let me suggest a pretty simple and straightforward concept:

  • Ask people what is un-engaging or needs to be done differently
  • Give them a model to deal with the different kinds of issues, because there is not one solution for all kinds of problems
  • Allow them to prioritize what needs to be improved in terms of themes like impact, timeliness, cost, difficult to accomplish, etc.
  • Allow them to individually solve problems that they can solve individually
  • Allow them to form teams where group thinking and peer support would help them move forward on particular issues and opportunities
  • Recognize efforts, successes and accomplishments
  • Look to alternative approaches toward redoing things that are perceived as unsuccessful
  • Focus on continuous continuous improvement

I call this Dis-Un-Empowerment and I look at the overall situation as one of Engagimentation. Functionally, it looks like this:

Engagimentation = engagement plus implementation

Make people feel successful and work as part of the team to implement their ideas — and let them feel that they are contributing to the overall success of the organization and their co-workers. Build a sense of collaboration and teamwork.

At the same time, look up! The horse represents an even “more better” way to approach the situation and the cargo jet represents the future. There are always improvements that can be made and people will feel accomplished if they are allowed to be part of the idea and implementation team.

Implementation is the key, and an analysis or review of your best past practices with implementing change and strategy will probably give you good ideas about what kinds of things work best within your culture. Looking at failures can also provide you with good information about what things do not work.

This improvement requires the active involvement of the managers in the identification of workplace issues — not just from a survey where not everyone will be candid or involved. It then requires them to engage people in defining what can and should be done differently, not just holding a meeting and going back to doing the same stuff…

Doing Nothing poem

We need to start really working to involve and engage our people in meaningful workplace improvements.

Engagimentation Rat Cage

Or not.

Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

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