employee engagement makes for a happy workplaceEmployee engagement—which studies show is a critical success factor for businesses—is evolving as demographics, societal priorities, and technologies change. So does the word still fit today’s businesses or have we moved beyond engagement to something more?

Is Employee Engagement Passe?

In a Forbes article, “It’s Time To Rethink The ‘Employee Engagement’ Issue,” Josh Bersin, founder of Bersin by Deloitte, cites his firm’s 2014 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends research, which shows 78% of business leaders rate retention and engagement urgent or important.

“When I talk with HR leaders they talk consistently about retention issues, they carefully watch their Glassdoor ratings, and businesses all over the world are trying to build an inclusive, passionate, multi-generational team,” he writes. “In fact, I believe the issue of ‘engaging people well’ is becoming one of the biggest competitive differentiators in business.”

He suggests using the word engagement limits our thinking.

“It assumes that our job is to reach out and engage people, rather than to build an organization that is exciting, fulfilling, meaningful, and fun.”

Bersin posits potential changes:

“We may need to change the way we manage people (end appraisals?), change the work environment (open offices? nap rooms? ping-pong tables?), and change who we hire (are we hiring the right people for our mission, culture and values? Are we assessing well?). All these things tend to go well beyond the typical engagement survey.

Financial institutions today tell us that they are having a harder time recruiting people because they are no longer “cool” places to work. This isn’t a traditional problem of engagement, it’s one of identity, mission, and culture.”

Enlightened companies are redesigning jobs, changing the work environment, adding new benefits, continuously developing managers, and investing in people, he writes. They’re “mission-driven” and they make sure to screen people for culture and job fit.

[Tweet ““The wrong person cannot be ‘engaged’ regardless of what HR does.””]

Like many industries trying to re-engage their people, financial institutions are redefining their mission and values, notes Bersin. Pharmaceutical companies are shifting from “drug companies” to “health and wellness companies.”

The Story of Purpose

As advertising legend Joey Reiman discusses in “The Story of Purpose,” the bottom line doesn’t motivate people. They want to feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves.

We can’t retain people, we can only attract them. We can’t engage them but we can “inspire and support them. We can’t only train them but we can enable them to learn and give them the opportunities to develop,” Bersin writes.

He advocates changing our thinking and moving beyond the concept of engagement. 

“If we really achieve the goal of making or organizations irresistible we can make work fun, meaningful, and enriching for everyone.”

For a comprehensive guide to growing a sustained workplace culture of engagement and appreciation, download our FREE eBook: Transform Your Workplace with Gratitude.
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