Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What is Engagement?

I recently attended the annual Enterprise Engagement Alliance (EEA) conference in Tarrytown, NY. The entire subject of "engagement" may seem new to some, but it has actually been a long standing corporate problem. Today, it is ever more exacerbated by the recent economic and demographic changes in our world of work.

Right now 52% of mission critical jobs are not being filled. In addition, recent studies show that 18% of workers are actively DISENGAGED when it comes to their work. That costs our economy over $382 billion dollars each year.* What does all of this mean? It means that when the economy kicks back, about 60% of the workforce will be out seeking new employment opportunities.

Recognition, rewards and engagement are a blip on most company operating budgets but soon they will find out how important those things are. My prediction is that in the next 1-3 years companies will be scrambling to retain their A players as they start looking for jobs elsewhere. To keep these key employees, companies need to put a special focus on how to engage them. Of course that involves providing a proper compensation program, incentives for going above and beyond and rewards and recognition. While these things are important for keeping employees engaged, they are often the Band-Aid to a much deeper issue.

Organizations have to build in an engagement strategy that brings the employee in from the day they start work and keeps them engaged throughout their employment. A truly great employee performs out of passion, not fear. To think about engagement is to think about what gives you passion to do your job every day. It is a way to excite your employees to WANT to do a great job for you. It's a philosophy and a practice, not just an incentive program.

That is why our organization is involved with the new EEA certification process. As engagement consultants, we work with organizations to plan their engagement strategies from day one. The fact is, people these days value quality of life more than money. It used to be that money was considered the number one signifier of happiness. This is no longer the case. In fact, monetary compensation barely breaks the top five.

In my company, we have struggled with the downturn in the economy like everyone else. So, in lieu of raises, we made some changes to our corporate philosophy. We stopped tracking every minute of vacation and sick time, allow employees to bring their dogs to work, have a casual dress code (unless we have a client meeting), have the ability to work from home when they want and have incentives built into their jobs. Wearing jeans and having a pet with them in the office makes them happier which, in turn, makes them work harder for us. I know that these philosophies may not work for every organization but they are examples of how changing some fundamental workplace rules can change how your employees feel about your company. And that can make all the difference when the economy turns around.

Sandi Daniel
President & CEO

*Source: Presentations at EEA Expo, June 1-2, 2011. Can also be found on