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I Agree, Bob Corlett: Ditch Those Engagement Projects


In a recent post on the Washington Business Journal, Bob Corlett argued that many organizations and managers put too much stock into so-called engagement projects, largely as a result of correlational studies that demonstrate a link between engagement and business results. Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace report is one of many sources that fail to distinguish between correlation and causation.

Reports such as the one produced by Gallup typically suggest that if organizations would simply improve engagement, then organizations would see an improvement in bottom-line results. Of course, this then leads to a myriad of initiatives and projects focused specifically on improving engagement with little emphasis on how these projects promote (or even sometimes work against) bottom-line results. We hear talk about gamification, about job satisfaction, about offering perks and benefits and other miscellaneous initiatives that are tangential to the overall goals of the organization.

But the academic research suggests that engagement is an “experience” of employees, in which they are invigorated by their work, dedicated to doing a good job and mentally focused. This isn’t going to happen because the organization turns everything into a game, and it certainly isn’t going to happen when the organization is suffering financially.

It’s going to happen when workers have an interest in and passion for their work, when they have the skills and talents necessary to perform that work at high levels and when the environment serves as a facilitator rather than a barrier to high performance. It’s going to happen when workers feel like they are contributing substantively to the organization (which is difficult when the organization is performing poorly), when they feel like they are valued for those contributions and when their work and work environment is consistent with their personal and professional values and goals.

Hence, organizations don’t need “engagement initiatives.” They need effective structures and processes that allow workers to excel and make a positive contribution, that recognize those contributions and that allow workers to meet their professional goals. And they need to do so in a work environment that is respectful of all the demands they face and whose primary output is something other than stress and strain. If you develop sound business structures, processes and work environments, you don’t need to worry about engagement, because it will naturally occur.

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Right on... last year I posted a similar thought and included the idea that engagement is a two-way street. What are the employee responsibilities?

My older post here: http://www.symbolist.com/blog/2012/08/employee-engagement-needs-to-be-fixed/

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Matt Grawitch published on August 6, 2013 6:39 PM.

In the Face of Adversity: More Resilience at Work was the previous entry in this blog.

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