An article in Forbes this January was a breath of fresh air to me. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, the term “employee engagement” is, historically speaking, a brand new term. I read dozens of employee engagement articles and posts every week. The vast majority of those – more than 90% – are filled with fluff and craziness. I have become somewhat desensitized to it now. Still, there was a time not long ago where I thought, “If I see one more article claiming that company field trips are the secret to successful employee engagement, I will stick a fork in my eye.” I’ve read that article (or rather as much of it as I could stand). Other articles pitch employee engagement strategies that include: bringing your dog to work, setting up a pool table in the break room, providing healthy snacks, and bringing a beer cart to each desk on Friday afternoons (they do this at SalesForce, according to a rep I spoke with in Chicago).
There is so much junk out there about employee engagement. The tragedy is that most present as fact coming from some sort of expert. My heart honestly goes out to companies that read these articles and implement these crazy ideas with the misplaced hope of improving their employee engagement and culture. It’s like a coach giving you terrible advice, and then, after following it all to the letter for months, you realize you haven’t been improving because your coach was wrong. To be clear, I am not saying that bringing your dog to work or putting a pool table in the break room is, in and of itself, a bad idea. There is a lot of evidence that these add to the workplace. My issue is that these things ALONE do not create (nor will they ever create or improve) employee engagement. To borrow a phrase from coaching, you’ve got to start with the basics. There is no other way.
The article is entitled, “Gallup Executive Shares Six Ways to Drive Customer and Employee Engagement.” It’s a short but excellent article about improving Customer Experience (CX), and I agree with all six points. Almost like the author was trying to prove my point above, there is nothing in this article about driving employee engagement – even though it’s called out in the title. There is one reference to how employee engagement increases customer engagement. I agree. So, where is the part about how to drive employee engagement that the title promises? As I said, it’s a great article, and I don’t intend to criticize the author. I bring it up to illustrate yet another example of how casually this term is used. And the sad fact is that most business owners don’t know what it really is or what they can do about it.
NOTE: In several of my posts last year, I covered Gallup’s Q12 survey for improving employee engagement. Go back and read them if you missed it. The short version is that there are 12 things that a company can do to improve and increase employee engagement. A company must do these things in a particular order, and the top four items are all related in one way or another to process. I’ve done this in past companies, and it works really well. This is the place to start. This is the place to set your focus. And, if you were only to improve one, two, or three of the 12 items in that list, you would be light years ahead of your competition. Go ahead. Buy the pool table. Just make sure that you’re focused on making your way down the Q12 list as your top priority. That’s where the magic is.