Why Bother?

In Part 1 of this blog series, I looked at defining Employee Engagement. This week, I’d like to explore the question “Why bother?”.

There are many examples of people quoting very specific business benefits to Employee Engagement. When I sat down to write this post, my plan had been to curate some of them and summarise. However, something hit me as I was doing this – none of these numbers actually mean anything. Oh, I don’t mean that getting business benefit is not important, or that the reason for striving for Employee Engagement should not be based on the bottom line. No, for me there are two reasons not to focus on the examples:

  1. Very few, if any, are verifiable.
  2. Do we really need evidence?

Let me break these down this way.

Very few examples are verifiable. I remember being told, by a respected consultant, of a Yale study done in the 50s involving students and their goals. It ‘proved’ that if you wrote down your goals, you were significantly more likely to succeed with them – great selling point. However, the study never happened. It had been written about and then became urban myth, quoted and re-quoted by consultants and the like.

This was something I found out myself. I am, by nature, a sceptical person. When I heard of this fantastic piece of research, I went searching for it. What I found instead was all sorts of information debunking it. This didn’t really affect my view on writing down goals, but it did affect my view of the consultant.

My view of numbers being used for evidence, is that they are useful sometimes, but often they are not needed – and they should always be evidenced. Remember 87.5% of all statistics are completely made up.

Do we really need evidence? This is the more important question. What evidence do we need to convince us that Employee Engagement is beneficial to business. Ask yourself this question. For any activity you can think of, if you were committed, enthusiastic and 100% behind the purpose of the task, do you think you would put more or less into it?  The answer is obvious. The more engaged we are with the activity we are performing, the more we put in to it.

What this means can be seen by comparing two employees.

  • Employee 1 is a bit of a complainer. He only wants to work so that he can get his pay packet at the end of the month. Whilst he quite likes his job, and the people we works with, he has no time for ‘management’ or the ‘hidden agendas’ they push. He spends a fair amount of his time moaning to people or making remarks about what it’s like working in ‘this place’ or working for ‘that guy’. His performance is acceptable from a targets point of view, but he does the least he has to.
  • Employee 2 is seen as a valued resource. He still works to get his pay packet, but it is not the main driver. He is always looking at how things can be done better, and working towards the end result. He is not delusionally cheerful, he is just focused on the things he can do, and does not get involved in things that he can do nothing about. He works ‘with’ his manager as the relationship he has is good. He knows that he can trust his manager and that his contribution will be valued: not always implemented, but listened to and considered. His performance is exemplary from a target point of view and he does everything he can to work on improving it (for him and the team he is part of)

Forgetting for a moment the challenge of how to achieve this, it is completely obvious that Employee 2 is going to be more of an asset to the business than Employee 1. Now as I said in part 1, some of this can be due to the person’s base level of engagement (his personality), but much of it is about how he is treated, and as a result, what it unlocks. The main point of this example is that both of these employees are me – 5 years apart. The second one is how I was following a change of manager in a large organisation. When I was with the first manager, I would have said that I was not interested in doing better, or money was all that would motivate me. All that it took was a change of manager, and my whole view changed.

So going back to the question of “Why bother?”. The reason you want your Employee Engagement levels to be as high as they can be is obvious. The higher it is, the more people you have who are genuinely working for the organisation: the more people you have who are committed, passionate and driven to do all they can in their job.

In the part 3, we will begin to explore the things that need to be present in an organisation to create the right environment. To be notified when the other parts of this series are posted, enter your email address under subscribe to the WisdomBlog on the right. If you have found this post interesting or helpful, please share it using the social media icons at the start of the post.