Is employee engagement worth the hype?


Employee engagement has taken centre spotlight in recent years, generating a lot of attention and investment from the business community. It is seen as the ticket for improved productivity and a better, more efficient work culture. It is also assumed to boost enterprise and innovation, with employees feeling comfortable enough to voice their ideas and opinions. Those companies who invest in employee engagement initiatives reap the rewards when it comes to recruiting talent, or so we are told.

However have we gone too far in our approach to employment engagement? Is it imperative that employees are happy every minute of the day? Is it necessary to install a slide and pool table in the office to ensure your sales team achieves monthly targets?

Possibly not. Despite the lengths some companies will go to brand themselves as employee engaged, a lot of it simply isn’t necessary. Rather companies would be better serviced focusing their attention on a few, very simple tactics:

  • Invest in employee development. Employees report feeling huge satisfaction when they know their employer is investment in the development of their skills and learning through training and mentoring schemes.
  • Pay a fair wage. An employer can’t expect a motivated workforce if they are frequently scrimping on wages and paying below the living wage.
  • Communicate clearly. Good and regular communication with employees, providing them with updates on company performance and goals, will help them feel part of the bigger picture and that their individual contribution is valuable to overall business success.
  • Ethical management. Treat employees fairly and openly. Keep them informed on business issues. A high level of transparency will help employees cope with both good and bad news.

In recent months, there has been growing evidence that the focus should move away from employee engagement as a way of enhancing employee happiness and towards a more pragmatic approach of developing the mental toughness of employees. We exist in a rapidly changing world, where things shift about frequently. As such, rather than happiness, employees would be better to focus on developing mental toughness if they are to get ahead in this new changing world.

Employee engagement leads to a sense of entitlement amongst employees; whereas training on mental toughness will help them appreciate that resilience under pressure is real added value.

These days, businesses are looking for employees who prosper under stress, are driven, ambitious and thrive on challenges. The sort of person who, when they are knocked down, gets straight back up again and learns from their errors. Transitions can no longer be avoided in today’s business environment and content and settled employees are often not suited for change. This is why businesses are doing something new when it comes to employee learning.