Employee Engagement: The Rewards and Perils

My last post was about boring jobs—why employers need to make them more interesting and some ideas on how to do this.  I got great comments from several readers. And it turns out that “employee engagement” is a hot issue that has garnered a fair amount of attention from HR and management researchers and thinkers. 

A 2006 Gallup study, for example, found a strong correlation between employee engagement and organizational innovation. It described three types of employees: engaged, not-engaged, and actively disengaged.  This third category – defined as employees who are not only unhappy, but who daily act out their unhappiness and undermine their co-workers – was particularly noteworthy to me as a workplace investigator and coach.  It was also scary: the study estimated that 15% of U.S. employees fall in this category.  I’ve seen these folks many times. 

Yet interestingly, another study discussed in a recent Wall Street Journal blog shows that disengagement does not necessarily follow from the fact that a job is boring.  Rather, employee engagement results from three things: (1) the employees are given opportunities to grow; (2) the organization is committed to making a difference in the world; and (3) the organization’s leaders exhibit values and behaviors that engender respect.

Disengagement does not necessarily follow from the fact that a job is boring.

The task of creating engagement falls squarely on leaders and managers – but it’s in no way an impossible one given that most organizations do have a mission that can change the world in some way, however small.  Mostly, it requires developing a detailed intention to engage employees in this manner followed by attention to what needs to be done. Communication is a key component. 

Would such actions make an impact on the actively disengaged 15%?  I don’t know–do any of you?  If it wouldn’t, management needs to address this problem in some other manner.  This kind of disengagement is toxic.  ~AS

2 responses to “Employee Engagement: The Rewards and Perils

  1. Workplace Insiders

    Just a reminder that employees who may appear to be disengaged aren’t necessarily. I remember hiring a night custodian once – a lonely job since he was the only one working much of his shift. He loved his job – and did it very well. He was very quiet when you tried to talk to him, but cared about the building – and told me he wrote songs in his head while he cleaned. Said it was the perfect job for him!

  2. What an interesting discussion.

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