Bersin makes good points about how “employee engagement” has become more of an annual measuring stick rather than a daily workplace philosophy. Actually, engagement is just the first step. “We want them to be married. That is, fully committed,” Bersin writes. Achieving that means companies must make themselves “irresistible” to the people they attract, hire and hope to keep.
“Our research shows that we may need to change the way we manage people (end appraisals?), change the work environment (open offices? nap rooms? ping pong tables?), and change who we hire (are we hiring the right people for our mission, culture and values? are we assessing well?). All these things tend to go well beyond the typical engagement survey,” Bersin says.
While I’m not qualified to dispute Bersin’s research, I do think it’s missing two fundamental components: respect and stability.
I’m continually amazed when companies routinely ax workers in the name of “strategic alignment” and “leveraging resources more effectively” and then wonder why their employees aren’t “engaged.” In keeping with the marriage metaphor, one can hardly expect a spouse to remain dutifully committed while the other runs around.
No company can guarantee a job for life, of course. But every employer can commit to honest and open communication on this front. What are the challenges? What input can employees offer? How can they actively contribute to resolving the issues?
Rarely has a company been so bold as to tell its employees, “We’re in trouble, and we need everyone to come together to fix it.” This kind of commitment goes way beyond nap rooms. It’s about genuinely connecting with employees, individually and collectively, so that they are an integral part of the company’s success. Part of making that connection is respecting them and, as much as possible, providing secure employment with compensation that reflects their value.
Sadly, that’s where the marriage often crumbles.