Failure to Engage

Most corporate efforts to solve employee engagement problems is making things worse instead of better. It’s an epic fail.

Here’s why.

The Employee Engagement Dilemma

employee engagement imageFor the last several years now, organizations are becoming more and more aware of the epidemic proportions of employee disengagement. It’s not just in the United States, it is world-wide.

Despite the awareness and the efforts to stem the gushing flow of blood, the problem isn’t getting better.

In fact, there are some signs that it is getting worse.

Updated research from Gallup, OfficeVibe, and others reveals the awful truth.

A whopping 88% of employees don’t have a passion for their work!

An almost equally large 80% of Senior Managers are dispassionate!

The cost to corporations is now OVER $500 Billion annually!

Calculate Your Own Impact

If you want to figure it out for your company, try this ROI Calculator from OfficeVibe.

I did a sample just to give you an idea.

Say you are a small business. If you have

  • 100 Employees
  • $50,000 Average Annual Salary
  • 45% Turnover Rate (one local company I know of actually has this)

Then you could save over

$1, 405, 641 a year

through better engagement.

Let’s take a bigger company.

  • 1,000 Employees
  • $80,000 Annual Average Salary
  • 30% Turnover Rate (better but still high)

Then improved engagement will save you

$17, 666, 485 a year!

So why, then, in the face of the wonderful financial and productivity gains to be made with better engagement; why is it that we can’t seem to make things better?

Let’s start with a little story.

Bacon and Egg Breakfast

It’s an old joke but one of my favorites because it never really loses its relevance.

bacon and eggsA chicken and a pig are walking down a street and walk by a diner. Painted on the plate glass storefront window of the diner is an advertisement for a Bacon and Egg breakfast. Probably with toast but that’s not relevant here.

The chicken proudly perks up and says, “Look! If it wasn’t for my contribution that breakfast would not be possible!”

The pig says, “Yeah, for you it’s a contribution! For me, it’s total commitment!

It’s a great story for the difference between involvement and commitment. It’s also a great reason why our engagement efforts are failing.

Failure to Commit

From researching this, the conclusion I have drawn is that most organizations are failing to resolve employee engagement issues because they have not made it a priority in their strategic plan.

They are INVOLVED in employee engagement but are not fully COMMITTED to it.

In other words, they are the chicken and not the pig.

Here’s some examples of “solutions” to employee engagement that I have seen:

  • Taking the annual employee survey and re-packaging it as an Employee Engagement Survey.
    Incidentally, most companies are taking about the same amount of action from it now as they did when it was just an Employee Survey; that is to say very little if at all.
  • Creating new metrics to study employee engagement
    Don’t misunderstand. Metrics can be a valuable information source – if you know what you actually need to measure and if they can provide guidance to resolve issues. Otherwise, it’s just numbers. The other issue I have here is it is important to remember that with Employee Engagement not everything that counts can be counted.
  • Adding new benefits to the employment package.
    This is related to the old-school thought that all you have to do to make people happy is offer them more money and more bennies. Despite the mounting evidence that is doesn’t work and never did work, people still use it.
  • They focus on improving employee happiness
    On the surface, that seems logical. Where it falls down is that it makes an incorrect assumption. This approach assumes that a happy employee is a productive employee, yet this is NO EVIDENCE to support this.

These and other approaches will likely fail. While there is no one cure-all for employee engagement, the evidence seems to suggest that until Employee Engagement is made a STRATEGIC PRIORITY FROM THE TOP DOWN that anything we try will be a failure.

What does that look like?

  • A clear and concise mission statement and corporate value set lived out (and emphasized) from the top.
  • A well-defined leadership development track that focuses less on management technique and more on real leadership skills.
  • A improved system of hiring that focuses on character traits as strongly as skill sets.
  • A structured ongoing program to equip and empower employees to perform with excellence.

It’s time to stop being the chicken and become committed like the pig.

What engagement fails have you seen? What hurdles do you see in implementing real solutions? Share your thoughts here or email me at