The news is full of reports that the US economy has reached full employment. And yet engagement, despite the hype around about increasingly complex technology solutions, remains stubbornly low.  If “what get measured, gets managed” is true then why has this been such a tough issue for organizations?

There are basically three reasons that tend to get overlooked.  Address these correctly and your team and organization will start to see a shift:

Too macro. Engagement, like real estate, is local.  What is important to one person may not be important to another.  The Japanese have a proverb: ten people, ten opinions.  This is also true for engagement factors.  To be effective leaders have to drill down—way down.

Fuzzy priority.  The way most engagement reports are written simply reflect satisfaction in different areas.  For example, “leaders communicate honestly with me” or “my manager considers my work/life balance.” What happens is predictable: managers craft strategies aimed at addressing those factors that scored lowest.  However, the factors that scored lowest may not be the most important ones to the organization.

Remedial vocabulary.  Native people living above the Arctic circle have many words for wind, snow, tides, and ice.  These help them conceive and create novel solutions to survive in a harsh environment. Too many leaders have a very limited understanding of the drivers of engagement, hence the dearth of novel ways to impact in a real way. Expand the vocabulary of engagement beyond work/life balance, remuneration and the ever popular “communication” and you can start to make some progress.


Photo by John Simitopoulos on Unsplash