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Does Employee Engagement Still Matter? [A Chat with Joshua M. Evans]

Sep 14, 2020

Multiethnic group of happy business people working together in office

Is employee engagement overrated or simply misunderstood? Is it the goal -- or merely a byproduct of something else, something far more important?

For a unique and impassioned perspective on these aspects of employee engagement and more, check out this Q&A with Joshua M. Evans, my fellow champion of company culture.  

What is employee engagement?

GMD: Forget about what it's become, Joshua. How would you define or describe employee engagement in its original form?

JME: Employee engagement is about how a team member shows they care about their work and their organization. Can they continue to care if they run into challenges, have a rough day, or encounter large set-backs?

Is employee engagement just another management fad, like mission statements?

Wanting employees to care about their work and their organization’s success is not a ‘fad’. However, the term employee engagement has become a cliche used for establishing toothless KPI’s (key performance indicators).

Let's talk about your recent post, "Employee Engagement Is Trash"

GMD: (Laughing) What led up to your writing that? What kind of response have you gotten?

JME: The idea of the article was to shake off all the overuse and cliched references. It was meant as a wakeup call. Many HR professionals and high-level leadership individuals have reached out telling me that I said what they were thinking.

Editor's note: Here is Joshua's article Employee Engagement Is Trash

How has employee engagement been misused or overused?

GMD: And what are the most common examples of this?

JME: The biggest example of EE overuse is in engagement surveys. Can you actually gauge how much someone cares about their job from a 20-question survey? No, you can’t. Also, if an individual is taking a survey on engagement, doesn’t it behoove them to fill out the form so it indicates they're engaged? The surveys/results are inherently flawed.

Editor's note: Here's a Dilbert cartoon on employee engagement surveys. Did Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, get it right? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

How should we be thinking of employee engagement instead?

GMD: For example, you mentioned employee engagement had become an accessory. What's a better way to frame it?

JME: Yes, there is a much better way to frame it. We should stop looking at employee engagement. We should be striving to provide team members with purpose. Do they feel fulfillment in their work? Do they have a sense of purpose in achieving in their role? These are the new indicators for great organizations.

You also mentioned employee engagement is everyone's job. Why do leaders resist that message?

GMD: Or do they simply not see it as everyone's job?

JME: Many times EE is seen as a function of HR, but poor EE is almost always caused by bad leadership. Every person within an organization is responsible for the attitudes and engagement of all team members.

How does double-digit unemployment change how companies think of employee engagement?

GMD: Are companies less concerned because they know more people are hungry for work? Say more about this.

JME: Good companies should be focused on finding the best talent, not the cheapest. If someone feels under appreciated or under paid they will never be working at their most productive and they will be hindering their organization from its full potential.

Where does employee engagement fit within company culture? Where should it fit?

Great culture begets engaged team members. If the cultural expectation is to care then people will care and be engaged. Those that don’t fit with that culture will often self select to leave.

Editor's note: I used to say if you're caring and competent, you can be an effective leader. Today I would also the word "confident." Employee engagement requires trust. Leaders will only trust their team if they are confident in their own ability to lead. Insecurity -- the opposite of confidence -- is the enemy of employee engagement. 

What else would you like to add? 

GMD: And how can readers find out more about you?

JME: Check me out on social: @enthusiasticyou
Check out my website: JoshuaMEvans.com
Reach out on LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/thejoshuamevans/

Thank you, Joshua! 

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15 Employee Engagement Quotes (one for every week left in 2020!)

Hi again, it's Gina. If you've been following my work for any length of time, you probably know I'm a big fan of quotes. Here are 15 employee engagement quotes to help you become an even better leader -- and stimulate discussion with your staff. Hope you find these quotes as thought-provoking as I did -- and if you like them, please share them with your team! 

  1. “When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.” — Simon Sinek

  2. “When people go to work, they shouldn’t have to leave their hearts at home.” — Betty Bender

  3. “Everyone talks about building a relationship with your customer. I think you build one with your employees first.” — Angela Ahrendts

  4. "Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers. You can buy a person's hand, but you can't buy his heart; his heart is where his enthusiasm is." — Stephen R. Covey

  5. “Customers do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they’ll take care of your customers.” — Richard Branson

  6. “Without short-term wins, too many employees give up or actively join the resistance." — John P. Kotter

  7. “People want to know they matter and they want to be treated as people. That’s the new talent contract.” — Pamela Stroko

  8. “Employees engage with employers and brands when they’re treated as humans worthy of respect.” — Meghan M. Biro

  9. "Leaders can let you fail and yet not let you be a failure." —Stanley McChrystal

  10. “Motivation is a fire from within. If someone else tries to light that fire under you, chances are it will burn very briefly.” — Stephen R. Covey

  11. "Look at yourself before you assess others, it all starts with you. Show a little respect. Nothing matters more. Be interested in your employees, well-being and make an effort to actively appreciate the specific value they add. The safer people feel, the more productive they are." — Alex McEachern

  12. “Connect the dots between individual roles and the goals of the organization. When people see that connection, they get a lot of energy out of work. They feel the importance, dignity, and meaning in their job.” — Ken Blanchard and Scott Blanchard

  13. "I think if the people who work for a business are proud of the business they work for, they'll work that much harder, and therefore, I think turning your business into a real force for good is good business sense as well." — Richard Branson

  14. "Employers that are effectively linking their social missions to their employee's daily work are differentiating themselves in the market and generating big returns. Taking the necessary steps to ensure every employee knows how they fulfill the mission, achieve the vision, and execute one or more company strategies through his or her daily job really pays off." — Tamar Elkeles, Ph.D.

  15. "If you want to improve the organization, you have to improve yourself and the organization gets pulled up with you." — Indra Nooyi

Your turn: Tell us your take on employee engagement, either from the perspective of an employee or that of a manger/business owner. Can't wait to read and reply to your comments! 

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