True Confessions: I’m Tired of Employee Engagement

I started working on employee engagement long before the “e” word came into vogue, and I’m tired of it. Here’s why.

Overused as a business buzzword, the term “employee engagement” has become meaningless. It gets talked about in executive suites and management meetings, yet few companies actually do anything about it because too much effort is required to change a culture that needs fixing and artificial attempts in a cultural vacuum only make the situation worse.

As a result, I’m just plain tired of:

  • the endless rhetoric and discussions that go nowhere
  • the naysayers who don’t think engagement matters
  • executives frustrated with engagement because it’s not a quick fix.

Employee engagement 1.0 and beyond
When I started Quality Service Marketing more than 30 years ago, my work involved helping clients gain employee commitment to marketing and organizational goals. Managers wanted to know how to get employees motivated and willing to work with them to take care of customers.

Engagement’s scope has evolved since then to recognize that employee and employer each bear responsibility for it. Employees need to show up to work ready, willing, and able to do their best, and employers need to provide a workplace where employees are respected, trusted, and eager to do their best.

Work and workplace expectations have also changed. Employees want meaningful work with flexibility and fair pay. And while some companies proactively engage them as valuable partners, too many still consider them as labor to be manipulated in response to short-term market pressures.

That’s the main reason I’m frustrated with employee engagement. We haven’t fully transitioned from the industrial age of management control over employees-as-commodities to a better model of management with employees-as-respected-partners sharing in responsibility and ownership of results.

Not ready to give up
Despite my frustrations, I’m encouraged when I meet with employees who tell me how great their employers and workplace cultures are. Ditto when I hear and read about successful organizations where employee-care is as important as customer-care.

Despite the clueless-in-charge, there are still leaders out there who value their employees and genuinely want to do better with and by them. So I’m not giving up – because people matter and they deserve better.

[Image credit: photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash]

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