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Myths of Employee Engagement: Part 2

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Yesterday I posted some basic reactions to WorkUSA’s research on employee engagement and manager communications.  Today, I’d like to continue with some reactions to the second half of their “key findings.”  Some of you may thing “Does Dubs always have to disagree?”  Well, I don’t always.  But I do like to put my particular spin on things.  Here’s the list:

Employees are concerned about changes to health care benefits and pension plans. Top-performing employees are far more likely to cite benefits as an important reason for leaving than employers realize.       ((Watson Wyatt.  2006.  “WorkUSA® 2006/2007: Debunking the Myths of Employee Engagement, Executive Summary.”  Retrieved from on December 18, 2006.))

I actually disagree with how this finding was spun, and I really do think there’s some spin here.  Top performing employees probably are as interested in benefits as anyone else.  However, this leads you to believe that compensation and benefits is the key area for retention issues.  I’d like to suggest that top performing employees simply want to do their jobs, and not have restrictions around how they think about, perform, and fulfill their jobs.  In other words, so long as your compensation and benefits are not lagging the rest of the industry or local area, it’s really the work that matters.  When we talk about highly engaged employees rather than top performing employees, we’re really talking about people who care about their work.  Certainly you can have top performers who are not engaged, and these people might be more willing to leave over compensation rather than the quality of the work.

Senior management is receiving lower marks than in the past from employees on instilling confidence in long-term business success, making decisions in a timely manner, making changes to enhance competitiveness and grow the business, and controlling costs.  ((Ibid))

I’m not sure what to make of this one but I haven’t really seen anything out there that suggests this is correct or incorrect.  What I’d guess is that with the ongoing accounting issues in the industry, the prevailing mood that employers cannot afford their pensions, and the rapidly accelerating M&A environment, that these are all actions that cause doubt within employee ranks.

Organizations that have created strong engagement shouldn’t rest on their laurels. By going beyond engagement to employee effectiveness, these organizations can continue to earn superior total returns to shareholders.    ((Ibid))

This seems to be obvious, but perhaps it’s not.  (See?  Sometimes I do agree)  Many organizations are going to great lengths to measure engagement and identify ways to increase it.  However, there are intricate networks of closely aligned tactics that can be more easily pursued when the workforce is highly engaged.  I sit around talking about innovation and innovation networks on systematicHR.  It’s difficult enough getting employees to collaborate in the most effective manner and create new innovative thinking around their work.  I also sit around talking about productivity.  Now these topics are all areas where HR may not currently play a role, but they are certainly areas where HR should be seeking to participate in.

I’ll go beyond this and get a little bit preachy.  When we talk about HR having a seat at the table, we’re not just talking about HR being there and being taken seriously about HR issues.  We’re talking about HR’s ability to participate in discussions that are clearly in the domain of other corporate functions, and being able to provide additive value.  Why can’t HR talk about collaboration networks?

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2 responses to “Myths of Employee Engagement: Part 2”

  1. David Zinger Avatar

    I appreciated your critical look at engagement. I loved your line: Many organizations are going to great lengths to measure engagement and identify ways to increase it. However, there are intricate networks of closely aligned tactics that can be more easily pursued when the workforce is highly engaged.

    You have an inclusive and encompassing view of employee engagement. Too often employee engagement, as I hear it, is a euphemism for how do we suck as much productivity out of our workforce as possible.

    Thanks for you views,


  2. systematicHR Avatar

    Thanks David. Sometimes I write things and wonder if anyone is reading or if they get it. At any rate – interesting site of yours. Let’s stay in touch and perhaps think about how we can collaborate on a discussion about engagement.