Worst. Post. EVER. About. Employee. Engagement.

A recent article on Forbes caught my eye because the headline said “The Real Reason to Care About Employee Engagement.”

I always love to jump into posts that start with either “the secret to” or “the top three things to do to drive engagement” or “the only thing you need to worry about to drive engagement” because frankly, most of the time it is a garbage post. This one was no different.

The entire post is short but here’s some of the operative quotes that really got my goat…

“… from a management perspective, there’s no need to care about sensitivity. But employee engagement ultimately isn’t about sensitivity. It’s about productivity.”

Later on in the article the author goes on to say…

“…in short employee engagement is it just some intangible HR concept; it has a very tangible productivity connection.”

And even further into the article the author says…

“…from a management perspective for fictional CEO at the beginning of this post, there’s only one reason to care-to – a great deal – about having engaged employees. They work hard.”

As an employee, if I was ever privy to that conversation between a consultant and a CEO or the head of HR and the CEO, I would IMMEDIATELY get my resume up-to-date. I would IMMEDIATELY contact every known recruiter in my network.

If I knew the biggest reason my company cared about employee engagement was to drive greater productivity then I would also know they see me as just another resource to maximize. I’m no different than a factory-floor robot to be tweaked and tuned to get maximum throughput for minimum input.

If you’re a CEO or an HR person, or even if you’re simply a manager, please take note. Employee engagement is not a productivity play. Employee engagement is not an efficiency play. Employee engagement is effectiveness play and it’s a human play. First and foremost is engagement focuses on the employee and not the balance sheet.

If you’re responsible for employee engagement I beg of you look at it through the lens of the employee and not the CFO.

child farm

If you’re looking at employee engagement is a productivity play you are no different than middle-aged families who had children simply to work the fields. Children were labor first, family second.

Employees are humans first, resources second.

I would hope were more evolved than that today

8 thoughts on “Worst. Post. EVER. About. Employee. Engagement.

  1. Sorry but it seems like semantics to me. Are you claiming that CEO’s and HR persons should care about employee engagement out of the kindness of their hearts and not to benefit the company. Sorry if I’m missing the point here as it’s well past my bed time!

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    • Thanks for commenting JonasAndroid – appreciate your engagement here.

      Here’s what I’m trying to communicate… Yes – CEOs should worry and care about engagement out of the kindness of their hearts. If engagement is simply a way to drive productivity then they should also want to remove benefits and things they currently provide if they can prove removing them increases company stock prices or revenues right? Should they remove company paid benefits if they can improve the bottom line? In other words if you ONLY do engagement for profit then you really don’t care about engagement and you don’t care about employees.

      The point is that in order to have engagement you must care about employees. Your comment suggests that CEOs should ONLY care if employees are happy and satisfied and engaged IF there is an ROI. That is wrong and suggests if CEOs only do engagement for profit they’d do negative things for profit as well. (Which many do, btw.)

      I also believe it you want to run a company like a boiler room you can… just don’t say you care about engagement when what you ONLY care about is profit. That’s where the disconnect is.

      Over time – caring about employees IS caring about the company.

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      • The entire premise of this blog post is comical. You make an assertion that ‘productivity’ of a human and a robot are in-fact different while providing no arguments, logic, or fact to back up the premise/assertions made.

        Like a typical millennial (safe assumption) this blog post comes across as extremely whiny, entitled, and has absolutely no substance.

        I will give you an opportunity to flesh out your premise with one simple question.

        Why shouldn’t a company remove frivolous benefits if productivity remains consistent and it improves the stock price?

        Labor is a commodity no different than pork bellies or timber. Any competent leader has a duty to the shareholders to maximize the ‘return on investment’ for every man hour/employee in an organization.

        The reality is that all for-profit companies have a singular goal – to create value for shareholders. For-profit companies are not charities designed to cater to employees, in fact, it is the role of an employee to cater to an employer.

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  2. This is in response to the comment by the aptly named “Thisisnotmyhandle”

    I always love comments from anonymous sources. I don’t always post them but I still like reading them. Even this one – posted twice hoping to get around my filter I’m guessing. I’m also guessing you keep your opinions anonymous because you’re ashamed to have them connected to you?

    I will post this one and my respond because it serves my purpose – as does the writing I do this site. If you have a site you want me to read feel free to share that in a reply.

    First of all – love that you think I’m a millennial – I wish that were the case. Too many turns around the sun to be able to say that. I’m surprised that my picture at the top of the page didn’t tip you off… or my bio page. Either would make it easy to see I’m no millennial.

    Second… this is a blog post – which almost by definition means it represents my opinion on things and not a scientific paper with footnotes or the need to provide anything more than my opinion. If you find my opinion different than yours we can have that discussion without the insults and attacks (sign of weak starting point btw)…
    Addressing some of your points…

    I did not suggest human/robot production was different – What I actually said was that if my employer saw them as similar I would not want to work for them. Very different and a nuance you did either didn’t get or did not appreciate.

    I also believe companies have the right to manage their resources as they see fit. And as I said and you said – labor is a resource. My point is that an “enlightened” company leadership needs to see human resources differently than other resources (steel, machines, etc.) if they want to compete effectively for that resource in today’s world.
    Again – my OPINION is that good leaders and good companies do NOT maximize their human resources – they optimize them. Again – a very different point of view.

    To your specific “question” on whether a company should remove frivolous benefits to drive profitability my answer is this…

    Every company has the right to do what they want within legal constraints. So yes, if they want to remove benefits to be profitable they can. However, some things just aren’t the right thing to do. Can they? Sure. Should they? No.

    Your question suggests that companies should still be allowed to hire children, work people without breaks, ignore safety issues – if it drove profitability. The laws that stop that from occurring today were born out of companies making the same “in pursuit” of profit and “responsibility to shareholders” arguments.

    Your comment speaks to a robber-baron mentality where humans are cast aside, put in danger and treated inhumanely in order to make more money.

    Not where I’d work. You can have it.

    You can run your org that way. In fact, if you truly believe in perpetuating that 1910 thinking feel free to come out of shadows and we can throw some light on your organization and your management style. That would be an interesting discovery process.

    Let me know if you have site you want me to read or if you want to connect in an “non-anonymous” way. Happy to do that.

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  3. Also in response to the comment by Thisisnotmyhandle.
    There are two kinds of people in the world right now: 1) Those that understand that the foundation of how and why we do business is changing and that people are starting to become conscious of what companies they do business with. Company culture and transparency can sell products probably close to as well as your most devious sales rep. There is a CLEAR trend that the most successful and looked-up to CEO’s are the one’s that genuinely care about their employees. We spend such a ridiculous amount of our time at work these days that this shift in the way we work is necessary so that people don’t burn out and go into spiral of deteriorating mental health…. oh wait that’s already happening to a very serious extent. 2) Those that jump on the bandwagon of employee wellness/ engagement/ productivity with dollar signs still in their eyes. As corny as this sounds, work forces should be reflective of sports teams. All the underlying principles are there: a group of people, with different roles, all contributing to one big picture goal that they work their butts off to accomplish. I’ve had coaches make me puke from running so hard and the next day I come to practice saying ‘do it again’ because I believe in my teams mission and values (sound familiar from an organizational context?). Coaches also have to gauge their athletes to make sure they don’t get overworked and injured. In sports it’s physical injury but I think we are quickly starting to see that work can injure people mentally. And yes, I AM A MILLENNIAL and it’s unfortunate that previous generations have turned the world of business into such a shady and awful environment all driven by profits and getting ahead by trampling over others. I’m glad my ‘entitled’ generation wants to put an end to all that and actually make work a meaningful experience in a human’s life that adds the their happiness and development instead of being one of the biggest stressors. Businesses can (SHOULD) be built on intentions of providing a useful service to fellow human beings, not being able to squeeze every last cent out of a product that kinda sorta sells.

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