Employee Engagement Misconceptions

11 Jan

My co-author and friend Leigh Branham has written a wonderful piece talking about some of the myths and realities related to employee engagment. The full text of the article can be linked to at his web site Keeping The People. Here’s an excerpt of three of the eleven misconceptions he discusses, based in part on our upcoming book Re-Engage:

Misconception No. 8: Paying more increases engagement. This is a popular belief because, if it were entirely true, it would largely absolve managers from having to attend to the difficult “soft stuff” of people management.

The reality: Pay, like praise and other forms of recognition, is a motivator when it is linked to measured performance or a specific contribution. More often, employees experience pay as a de-motivator when there is no link, or pay inequity, or there’s excessive secrecy about pay decisions. The most effective drivers of employee engagement have to do with the trust, challenge, respect, recognition, understanding, and honest communication we nurture daily…or not.

Misconception No. 9: All employees are engaged equally by the same drivers. Believing that all employees have the same hot buttons is a simple and comforting notion. It’s also not uncommon for managers to assume that what motivates their direct reports are the same ones that motivate them.

The reality: The research findings we report in our new book, Re-Engage (McGraw-Hill, February, 2010), identifies six universal drivers of employee engagement that all employees need and seek. However, different employees need some of the six drivers more than others and it’s up to the manager to find out who needs what and to make sure they get what they need.

Misconception No. 10: All organizations need to focus equal efforts on the same drivers. Many studies, including our own, have identified a specific set of universal engagement drivers. It is understandable that a reader might assume they all apply equally in driving engagement at his or her business.

The reality: Though highly engaged workplaces focus on providing plenty of all six drivers, they tend to emphasize those that fit their cultures and will help achieve their business objectives. For example, one of the winning workplaces we interviewed, Joie De Vivre Hospitality, runs a chain of boutique hotels that depends on exceptional service to hotel guests. To differentiate themselves in the market, they have chosen recognition and valuing of hotel staff as their “signature” driver. This means company leaders go out of their way to notice and express appreciation for “above-and-beyond” service, and have remained committed to hosting the end-of-the-year annual employee appreciation banquet, even as other employers were cancelling such parties in December of last year.

2 Responses to “Employee Engagement Misconceptions”

  1. commscrum January 12, 2010 at 7:47 am #

    Excellent stuff–and I’ll go a step farther.

    I think the biggest problem with the whole “employee engagement” conversation is that the core language and definition underlying it is inaccurate, producing a wild variety of inappropriate or insufficiently effective solutions like those mentioned above.

    I’ve proposed an alternative view (http://bit.ly/541pbX) called the “Four Forms” of engagement–rifle, mat, gearshift, and ring. It’s based on Webster’s simple definition of “engagement” rather than the one-way Conference Board definition of “employee engagement”.

    Would be interested in your thoughts–if this makes sense to you, I’ve done a couple of pieces derived from this as well.

    All the best from Brussels,

    Mike Klein–The Intersection

  2. Derek Irvine Globoforce January 14, 2010 at 2:28 pm #

    Excellent post, indeed. This reminds me of some of my personal favorite motivation and engagement myths:

    Cash Is King – Money doesn’t motivate. It compensates. Each element of your total rewards package must have its own “currency.” Money is the currency of compensation, not motivation or recognition. A simple “thank you” and sincere appreciation of effort will motivate far better than cash that only becomes an expectation and entitlement.

    Motivation Isn’t for Everyone – Everyone is motivated – by something. Your challenge is motivating them to achieve your objectives in a way that reflects your values. Strategic recognition plays a powerful role in this through praise and appreciation that calls out every action or behavior that reflects those values and contributes to those objectives.

    More of my myths here: http://globoforce.blogspot.com/2009/08/debunking-motivation-myths.html

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