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Exploring The Failure Of Employee Engagement In The Workplace

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The Employee Engagement Fiasco: Why It Hasn't Worked, Why It Can't Work, And The Costs

by Robert Bacal

Although the term "employee engagement" (EE)goes back to 1990, with credit for the term given to William Kahn, we've now had at least a decade of intense attempts by companies to improve engagement, and leverage it to improve profitability and productivity. Popularized by Gallup, the reputable polling company, and heavily marketed, it's almost impossible for most people to talk about the workplace without using the phrase.

Not only that but Josh Bersin (Deloite) cites statistics that estimate current yearly expenditures on improving engagement at work at about three quarters of a BILLION dollars, projected to rise next year to ONE BILLION dollars.

Overview Of The Problems With EE

  • Despite the research, the corporate attempts to improve it, there is no indication that anyone has succeed in making significant improvements even in one company.
  • There is little if NO evidence that increased employee engagement can CAUSE bottom line improvement.
  • The actual "cost" of employee engagement efforts are actually much more than simply the out of pocket costs. If you include meetings, time away from work, and any "pull" away from getting other productive work done, the costs are much, much higher.
  • There is not a SINGLE principle or action that has emerged from the employee engagement movement that most people did not know before. In other words it has not resulted in any NEW actions to improve the effort employees expend in doing their jobs.

There's a lot more issues here, when you start to dig deeply.

Our Purpose In Critically Assessing Employee Engagement

As is often the case with "things that become popular", there's often a lack of understanding of what underpins that "thing". Critical thinking often goes out the window.

From this page you'll discover:

  • Why employee engagement hasn't improved despite huge efforts.
  • Why it's NOT possible to significantly increase employee engagement in any organization.
  • Why the research is incredibly misleading about the relationship between EE and productivity and profitability.
  • Why focusing on EE is in fact potentially negative for companies.

...and more

We'll use an understanding of research methodology, draw upon fifty years of research in Psychology and human motivation to help you understand why the whole thing has become a massive failure.


Important Things You MUST Understand About Employee Engagement To Understand Why It Has Failed

The Research And The Claims About The Power Of Employee Engagement

If you look superficially at employee engagement research it's not surprising that you would come away thinking that focusing on it is important. However, the research does not show a cause-effect relationship between employee engagement and business results. There's a fundamental misunderstanding of that research and the claims made.


Why Companies CAN'T Significantly Improve Employee Engagement: The Psychology

Since the popularization of employee engagement as a concept, there have been countless research reports that "track" employee engagement across companies, across countries, and across industries on a quarterly basis. Despite the huge investments of time and money, the results have been disappointing. On aggregate, employee engagement hasn't improved. There are good reasons for this. Not only have companies failed at improving engagement, but they will always fail, because it can't be done, at least enough to make a difference.


The Harm, Downside And Other Issues From Focusing On Improving Employee Engagement

If there was no cost to focusing on employee engagement, this page would not exist. EE efforts would just be benign. That's not true. There are significant negative outcomes that occur as a result of employee engagement efforts.


Transforming Employee Engagement Into Real World Action

If you look back at a decade of work in employee engagement you will be hard pressed to find a SINGLE suggested real world action that we didn't know before anyone talked about employee engagement. Which is scary. In this section, we'll look at whether employee engagement has increased our understanding of employee motivation and productivity, and whether it's added one bit of information we didn't know before.

We'll focus on whether EE work has translated into action, and we'll end with a set of recommendations about what to do instead of focusing on employee engagement.

How Measuring Employee Engagement Causes Lower Employee Engagement

(more material coming soon)

About Company

Bacal & Associates was founded in 1992. Since then Robert has trained thousands of employees to deal with angry, hostile, abusive and potentially violent customers. He has authored over 20 books on various subjects, many published by McGraw-Hill.


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