Musings: Real Engagement


Ambiguous Engagement

Many of our clients want to discuss their employee engagement when we meet. Before we go down that conversation path, I always attempt to clarify what, specifically, about employee engagement they want to discuss. Very often, the responses I hear are espousals or measures of the employee base as they are ranked in their annual engagement survey against last year’s results. Various domains provide you with a cumulative score of ‘how engaged’ your workforce is. Supposedly, the higher the score is, the more efficient and productive your workforce.

While this seems to most to be a correct approach of estimating the ‘engagement’ of a workforce, it is my opinion that additional efforts on the understanding of the Engagement Drivers and why they are deemed valuable could be a more effective exercise.

The Engagement Catalyst

We are all unique and diverse beings with different desires, dreams, goals, ambitions, and aspirations. This is never more apparent than in a workplace setting. Everyone shows up to work with a combination of drivers that enable them to function and perform their duties daily. These drivers are adopted or developed over time and can be generational, or culturally specific. For some, it’s their family and financial obligations. For others it’s the mission/purpose of the work, a stepping stone to another industry/role, or necessary experience. The list goes on. In some cases the initiatives of the company happen to be the same, or similar to those of the employees working there. However, in most cases there is some misalignment. A corporate driver to further increase profit margins may not have the same appeal to an employee as their desire for doing good for a particular charitable cause…

This is where, I think, great employers really step up to the challenge.

It is important that companies get good at building catalysts between concepts that motivate individuals and concepts that motivate the company. For instance, if a corporate success driver is Customer Service Responsiveness, a way of translating that objective into a meaningful and fulfilling employee objective might look like running a Most Caring Employee competition. If Group Collaboration has been shown to benefit outcomes for the company, a good correlating employee initiative might be running a program that sets up ‘family units’ for employees to both work together in and emotionally depend on. In most cases, the best drivers of engagement are those that appeal to our innate sense of security, humanity, and societal needs.

What Do Men Die For?

My father used to say that “Love is what Men die for, and babies cry for.” Maybe the saying is not quite applicable to our topic, but a bit of a reminder that to overlook the basic personal drivers of the individuals within the employee base can be catastrophic. I’m certainly not saying that companies should pander to the whims of their workers on a daily basis. Rather, I think that it is both prudent and wise to understand the underlying drivers of the employee base so that you, as an employer, can best craft your engagement drivers to fit the broader appeal of your employees.

If there is ‘disengagement’ in an employee environment, I would much rather refer to it as a current misalignment of interests.


Bart heads up Sales and Marketing and is a Partner of Career Partners International – Colorado. He has spent the last 14 years in Sales/Business Development with nine of those consulting directly with HR organizations at large companies. Bart attended Bellevue University in Omaha, Nebraska and began his professional career there.

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