Myths about employee engagement
“Slipshod assistance, foolish inattention, dowdy indifference, and half-hearted work seem to be the rule; and no man succeeds, unless by hook or crook or threat he forces or bribes other men to assist him.” ~ Elbert Hubbard, A Message to Garcia, 1899.
In many businesses today, managers are still living by this philosophy, or something close to it.
Much has been written about employee engagement and little changes.
Headlines shout that only 30% of employees are engaged and then try to connect that number to the economy, terrorism, climate change, Millennials, or whatever the fear of the moment is.
Except that engagement, as measured by Gallup, has held very steady between 26% and 30% since they started measuring it in 2000 (Gallup). Lots of concern and money thrown at the issue and there’s been very little change over the years.
Maybe part of the problem is all the myth and hype that’s built up around it. In our experience, there are six prevalent engagement myths I routinely come across although there are surely more. In part 1 of this blog, we cover the first three myths.
Everyone knows the definition of engagement. There seems to be as many definitions of engagement as people discussing it and trying to find the best one is a challenge. For example, there is a 2016 SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) publication titled “Employee Engagement and Commitment” that includes an entire page of definitions from 10 different companies. Every vendor seems to use a different definition and the average person usually thinks of engagement as synonymous with happiness, fulfillment, or job satisfaction. Some definitions are very academic, but I like to keep it simple.
For me, the most useful definitions focus on a person’s discretionary effort and my own personal definition of engagement is “wanting to make a difference and being recognised for that commitment without the expectation of reward”. It lacks nuance and precision but it’s simple and immediately understandable.
Engagement is about making everyone happy. Although I’m all for everyone being happy, there seems to be, at best, a loose connection between engagement and happiness. I suspect engaged people tend to be happier on the whole because they feel like their efforts matter, but I’m very sceptical of the suggestion that happiness creates engagement. People who really care about doing their jobs well are often irritated with anything that prevents them from giving their best. They’re frustrated because they care and that’s very different than being happily indifferent.
Myth 3: The Work Ethic is dead. There are a lot of fingers being pointed at the Millennial generation and a lot of talk about how different they are. It’s easy to talk about how things were when we were young and lament the death of the old fashioned work ethic. Consider the possibility that the “old fashioned” work ethic we romanticise and get all misty-eyed nostalgic over never existed. For a bit of perspective, read “A Message to Garcia”, written in 1899 to see what the author thought of the work ethic back then (spoiler: it was pretty bad). Or just think about it this way: if we have a five generation workforce and 70% of the workforce is disengaged and that holds steady over time since before Gen Y was a strong presence in the workforce, it can’t be about generation can it?
At Brownie Points we are trying to help our clients dispel these myths, by helping business managers move away from this Dickensian mentality.
Thought leading organisations around the world understand the value of passionate employees and what they bring to their business.
They appreciate the correlation between passionate and engaged employees, and brand value and corporate performance.
Engaged employees are proven to take fewer sick days, stay longer, are more productive and deliver greater customer/guest experience.
Global consulting organisations such as Gallup are predicting that post Covid we will see the years of “talent wars” as many employees (up to 50%) look to move on from their current role, having waited during the pandemic as a form of security.
Implementing a strategy around a Culture of Appreciation to aid talent retention and attraction through improved engagement is critical to businesses looking to become an employer of choice and compete in the war for talent.
If staff turnover is an issue for you, please take a minute to complete the form on the link below to see what it is costing you to replace your lost talent.
If you don’t have a strategy in place to improve employee engagement your business will suffer.
After all, if you don’t value your employees your competitors will.
Tony Delaney, CEO Brownie Points