A Second Look at the Value of Employee Engagement

If your company invested $700 million to $1 billion in a market opportunity with little or no revenue growth, you would quickly reconsider the proposition behind the investment. U.S. companies are spending that amount trying to increase employee engagement while Gallup tells us engagement remains flat at 32% in the U.S. and 13% globally.

The connection between employee engagement and productivity, profitability, client satisfaction, and absenteeism is well-documented. Separate studies from McKinsey and Gallup state that productivity improves 20-25% with connected employees.

To foster engagement, new corporate campuses look like city parks, loaded with places to collaborate, exercise, engage with colleagues, enjoy free gourmet meals, and relax. Deloitte’s list of factors that contribute to a positive work environment includes—

Employee ENgagement
Rethink Employee Engagement
  • Humanistic workspaces
  • Time for slack
  • Inspiration
  • Self-directed, dynamic learning
  • Culture of recognition

Accountability for results is not on the list.

Yet, telling someone their effort makes a difference, is one of the most powerful ways to fuel an employee’s passion and energy. Realistic expectations and accountability for achieving them are more impactful than any other corporate benefit. You can easily identify people not motivated by accountability. They are the people that don’t want to do what they are supposed to do.

Let’s rethink employee engagement. The desire for full engagement across an organization leads to the plethora of initiatives consuming that $700 million. What if companies stopped trying to engage everyone in the enterprise and focused those investments primarily on the emerging leaders, high potential employees, and the people the company can’t afford to lose to another organization—or to their own apathy?

If the Pareto Principle is true, wouldn’t it make more sense to invest engagement dollars in expanding the 20% producing most of the results to 40%? The ROI should increase exponentially for companies that focus more effort toward high-potential leaders most likely to become fully vested in their own and the organization’s success.  And, in the process, the same 20% are highly likely to influence the engagement of other key talent, now and in the future!

Job satisfaction, personal happiness, and engagement with life (including work) are not the result of a perfect environment. They are the result of personal choice. A percentage of every workforce is disengaged with life and will likely never become engaged at work. To invest equally in that group as in the people most likely to grow and contribute is a questionable strategy.

One component of executive branding is helping a leader recognize his or her unique value contribution and how a distinct combination of skills, personality, executive presence, and potential defines current and future success. Build the brand of the people willing to take responsibility for their—and your company’s success.

Treating every employee fairly is isn’t treating every employee the same.