Liz Ryan, Founder and CEO of Human Workplace, tells us in a LinkedIn post that employee engagement is a scam.
Here’s a quote from her LinkedIn post “The Employee Engagement Scam”:
“Employee engagement is a fake business term that cropped up about twenty years ago because consulting firms and software firms saw something new that they could scam leaders into measuring.
Measurement is an addiction for fearful business and institutional weenies. They can’t stop measuring things because it makes them feel that they’re in control. When the measurements hit established targets, they feel cozy inside.
Employee engagement is typically measured via a once-a-year employee survey. The employees get to fill out a survey to tell their management team how ‘engaged’ they are, as though ‘engagement’ were a real thing instead of a made-up construct devised to give HR people something to measure.”
Reading this, I had a surge of contradictory thoughts.
Ryan argues that going for measurement of employee engagement – through anonymous surveys – is a bad idea that de-humanizes the workplace. She argues that HR management would be doing a far better job if they were to listen to employees’ engagement levels – by actually walking around and talking to them.
I wholeheartedly agree. Managers should take the time and energy to sense first-hand what type of energy their organization has. Measurements through surveys are not the best way to get at the heart of the emotional connection people have with their workplaces. They may provide statistics, which are sometimes worse than lies.
On the other hand, I also disagree with Ryan’s approach. Employee Engagement is important; the fact that it’s measured the wrong way doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. Engaged employees care about the organization they work in, understand it better and do more in it. They can create something that can’t be measured or mechanically induced: a snowball of energy and enthusiasm. In this way, engagement is an important consideration for any organization. As a founder and CEO of an enterprise gamification company – gameffective.com – I view employee engagement as a core deliverable of all gamification efforts with several key questions in mind: are employees aligned with corporate goals? Are they changing how they work as a result? Are they working to engage additional employees?
This is why I came up with the employee engagement funnel. It is about making employees aware of corporate goals and engaging them in learning and in getting others to align with corporate goals. The funnel is a step-by-step visual demonstration of how each employee goes through the process of engagement, beginning with awareness of corporate goals, going through training and learning of corporate practices or offerings and eventually leading other employees through the same path. Viewing employee engagement this way gives managers concrete things to relate to and doesn’t focus them on empty measurement:
- Are their employees aware of corporate goals, changes, new products, services and more?
- Are they aligned with corporate goals (see this post about whether gamification is the new corporate performance management)
- Do they care about sharing this knowledge with other employees?
In this sense, I am a true believer in Employee Engagement.