There’s a book and website on “employee engagement is not enough”. The point of the book is that we need passionate employees. Well let’s forget it. It helps to have passionate employees. But you can hardly expect from all people to be passionate all the time about all aspects of their job. It’s an illusion. Look at the figures. The actively engaged employees are a minority. Many people come to work and want to do well in their jobs but nothing more. Is it a problem that many people work to earn a decent income to support their family? Not at all. Like Obama says: it’s about work, but it’s more about family.
So let’s not overestimate the importance of employee engagement. Let’s not overestimate the importance of HR for its development. Let’s go back to what is essential in work. Why people work is important. Let’s not be normative or naïve. As business managers we can only offer a job and work context that fit to what is important to people. There is no hocus-pocus, only common sense.
Focus on the Context, not on Employee Engagement
So employee engagement is not enough. Sometimes it might be too much to ask. Let’s stop asking people to be passionate, or happy, or spiritual. We should not focus too much on psychological states. It does not work. It’s better to work on the input factors that might lead to those psychological states. Why? Because you can only control that. And if a company works on that, the output will be in most cases beneficial. And in some cases there will be no positive reaction at all.
And how can you create the fit between what is important for someone and the work context?
- Start with listening to the people who work in your company. Empathy and exchange are crucial.
- Recruit and select people with the right attitude and values. Focus on the fit with the company and not on competencies and immediate return.
- Accept and acknowledge that people work for a living. Don’t expect everyone to look for a higher level of being at work.
- Don’t be spiritual as employer. Be spiritual as a human being.
- If people work for a living, make sure you help people to manage the interference of personal and professional roles. Make sure employees feel that you find it important that they lead a balanced life.
- Get the basics right. Decent work. Decent Pay. Decent environment.
- Be clear on what is possible and what is not. There’s no point in trying to be a company that you are not.
- Apply common sense to your employee relations.
- Do not put targets on employee engagement. Don’t force people into engagement.
Employee Engagement is not enough. It’s sometimes irrelevant. Focus on the input factors and go back to basics. It’s the context that matters. And don’t be disappointed that not everyone is spontaneously as engaged as you. That’s life.