Employee Engagement as a Strategic Business Imperative

I am 100% confident when I say that the most strategic thing HR can do is drive employee engagement. It’s not process, policy or any stand-alone decision, program or initiative. Employee engagement drives business outcomes, both positively or negatively depending on how engaged your employees are. If your organization is truly world-class you will see awesome results. On the flipside, if your organization is a horrible place to be then it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the impact.

Oh and by the way, employee engagement is NOT the same thing as employee happiness so please stop saying that it is. An employee can be perfectly happy playing ping pong all day long, or guzzling beer from the keg, or napping in one of the sleep lounges, but they could be horribly disengaged in their work, the organization and how the two connect. Think about it! If you need more information READ this article by Kevin Kruse, serial entrepreneur, writer and publisher. He absolutely nailed it.

So What is the Perfect Model to Use?

There is no one model that works for everyone. It’s impossible because every organization is different by virtue of their unique workforce, business strategy, products and services, market(s) it serves, leadership, and the list goes on. However, what is the same is one thing. That one thing is that organizations are made up of people, and what engages people in their work today are the same. How you go about doing it is another story, but “what” engages people is the same.

The Key Drivers of Employee Engagement

You can easily go to Google and type in something related to “key drivers of employee engagement” and you will get millions upon millions of links with useful, and not so useful content. I strongly encourage you do this… and then overlay with the following. In all organizations across the globe there are 6 key drivers of engagement. You can dive deeper into each key driver, slice and dice data and come up with unique strategies to make a positive impact. The interesting thing about the 6 drivers is that they are what make up the platform of employee engagement leader, TemboStatus. If you have not heard of TemboStatus, I strongly encourage you to check them out. Their platform is highly intuitive and flexible, enables you to analyze data in every which way you want, and supports you with action planning. The other unique thing is that throughout my 16+ year career, what drove employee engagement were relatively the same, and I could loop them into one of these six categories.

In no particular order, the six drivers are:

  1. Senior Leadership
  2. Direct Manager
  3. Co-Worker
  4. Empowerment and Career
  5. Recognition
  6. Communication

So if you’re going to roll-out a model for employee engagement my recommendation is to evaluate your workforce within each category, and dive deep if you have to. You need to fully understand these interconnected components and where you’re strong and weak. Once you understand the big picture you can then figure out what you need to do. Without the big picture you’ve got nothing, and you might as well just turn the lights off and throw darts at what you think is the bullseye.

Now you might be wondering why there are so many different models of engagement. In a recent discussion with a fellow industry peer, he mentioned three models, two of which were from big-time industry thought-leaders. I wrote back and said, I’m not sure I agree with the models he mentioned. Having taken a closer look I realized that each of the models were a) somewhat similar, and b) could all be compared to the model I proposed above. For example, one model he mentioned was from Josh Bersin of Bersin by Deloitte where he describes his ideal model for employee engagement. The categories are:

  1. Meaningful Work
  2. Hands-On Management
  3. Positive Work Environment
  4. Growth Opportunity
  5. Trust in Leadership

If you look at the five components of Bersin’s model you could say that it’s similar to what I talked about. The five components he described do not fit perfectly into one category that I mentioned, but rather, they could be spread over a couple. What’s the point? I’m not sure there is a point other than the six categories that I describe are wider in scope versus the one’s Bersin describes. “Trust in Leadership” is a component of “Leadership” — There’s more to leadership than just trust. What about leadership experience, diversity on the team, ability to persuade, strength in coaching, ability to motivate and the list goes on. You get my point.

I am not advocating that I am right and Josh Bersin is wrong, because believe me, he knows a lot more than I do when it comes to talent. However, what I am saying is that I have been around the block a few times and these six categories keep coming up time in and time again as the core things that drive employee engagement. Some are more influential than others, depending on the organization you are working for. Regardless, I am 99.9% confident that if you roll out a model of employee engagement that focuses on these areas, and you deliver, you’ll see huge success.


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