An email from Mercer/Sirota today was headlined, “Employee Engagement is so over! Ok, maybe not quite” and I was somewhat thrilled by that statement and the recognition of a new reality.
I say this because for so many managers, the term “employee engagement” really translated into, “doing a survey and then having to do something about that survey to show my compliance with what the leadership wants.”
It was NOT about really improving motivation or impacting ownership or increasing innovation. The “Corporate Employee Engagement Initiatives” all seemed more like HR’s requirement to focus on employee retention and holding managers somewhat accountable for something over which they had only modest control.
Many BILLIONS of dollars have been spent, with most of that on doing extensive annual or even bi-annual all-employee surveys and then having senior managers meet or retreat to discuss the results, make some plans to do something or other, and lastly about how to hold people accountable. (Does this feel like a positive environment yet?)
And, if one looks at 25 years of RESULTS from the above efforts, we continued to find, year after year, that very little changed. Engagement sucks, and it is not because the surveys were bad (they had incredible construct and face validity) or that the planning meetings and measurement systems were faulty.
They failed because they never really got honest and sincere buy-in of the supervisors and their managers to make honest impacts on the workers. There was never any real trust in these efforts from worker to supervisor or even supervisor to manager. (Other surveys show that clearly.)
My thought is that the ONLY thing that is going to work to make real impacts on active involvement and the generation of ownership in the workplace is some Disruptive Engagement. Only when the supervisors have some confidence in their facilitation skills and see some flexibility and choice within their jobs will they really feel they are allowed to try to do something differently.
This is NOT about that myth of “empowering” the supervisors, because one person simply cannot empower another person to do anything.
I cannot empower you and you cannot empower me;
nobody can actually empower anybody!
What it is about DIS-UN- empowerment, the removal of the roadblocks and systems / processes that prevent action. Most managers pretty much KNOW they are not empowered to act or make changes, something which will only change when their perceived risk is decreased and their roadblocks are removed.
So, it will be a good thing when we stop wasting all that time and money on the measurement of something that maybe should not be measured. It takes money and time away from doing more constructive and effective things. I will not be sorry to see the “Industry of Engagement” go away and be replaced by a focus on generating active involvement and improved communications between workers and managers.
If you put a gun to their heads, the supervisors could choose to do things differently — heck, if you removed the gun that many feel is already pointed at their heads, they would probably choose to do things differently! Most of them do not really want to work in adversarial business environments.
The managers should be the motivators. The good news is that some really are and really do a great job of involving and engaging their people for real workplace improvement. But this is not done through a survey and is often done away from one. Active involvement is tough to really measure; you know it when you see it and some managers simply do a better job, day in and day out, of communicating with their people.
So, let’s maybe try to do more of that?
Let’s begin to make some different choices as to how we actively involve and engage our workers and our supervisors in the workplace,
For the FUN of It!
Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement products. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant who designs simple, powerful learning tools.
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