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Engagement and Productivity

Written on:July 22, 2013
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temperatue sickMany people continue to beat the engagement band wagon touting its main benefit of increasing productivity.

A question can be asked: Is engagement really all about productivity? After all, isn’t that where we actually get the return on our investment? Whatever we choose to spend on engagement we get back, plus more with improved productivity.

So, isn’t engagement about productivity?

For me, the answer is “No”. And, to extend my “no” answer, engagement is not even about engagement. Here is why.

Engagement is a symptom. It is not an outcome. Engagement is a measured result of other things. Productivity is an outcome. It is the measured result of other things. Engagement is what happens when other things happen.  Productivity is what happens when other things happen.

When I am sick and have a high temperature, my high temp, much like engagement, is a symptom of other things. You might try to cool my temp, but I will need physiological help with other things to get cured. And, as I cure those other physiological system issues, my temperature will go down. It is only a symptom or an indicator. It is not an outcome.

And, yes, vendors are trying to sell  solutions to all of us to address our our symptoms and they are very successful because so many of us are buying solutions to symptoms.

We need to stop going after engagement, and start talking about what we plan to do or fix or improve or implement — those other things that give us a great engagement measurement.

It is my belief that engagement efforts are weak, not as successful as many of us want them to be because we are “doing engagement,” but there are many things we are not doing, like talking to our employees.

Consider the company that is desperate to improve its engagement scores yet senior leaders are routinely too busy to visit from line staff.

Go after employee engagement by doing the following:

1. Identify what is important to your business success

2. Identify what is important to your leaders and your employees

3. Decide, collectively if you can, which of those important things you will do something about (you cannot do something about all of them, choose wisely)

4. Take action

5. Measure progress — employee engagement is just one measurement, and, perhaps not even the best

Back to productivity — it is one, and only one, possible outcome of an engaged workforce. It is touted by vendors because it is one way for the vendor to demonstrate return on investment, and perhaps justify what they are charging for their engagement solution.

Look at the big picture and ask lots and lots of questions. Don’t use a cookie cutter solution. If you engage a vendor, purchase a process, not answers. Answers are not universal.

When I focus on my health, I do not start by saying I want to make sure I don’t have a high temperature. I do start by assessing which major systems need to be improved. Do I need cardio? Do I need strength training? Do I need a combination? Am I prepping for a triathlon? Am I looking to lose weight? The questions matter. The answers matter. The answers for me are different than the answers for you. Taking my temperature on occasion may or may not be the best way to measure my health. There may be other ways to measure my health.

Be a leader. Evaluate your unique circumstance and deploy solutions that are meaningful to you. If you need help, get help with the process, not with the answers.

So, no, engagement is not about productivity per se, no more than being healthy is about avoiding a high temperature.

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