Are Your Employee Engagement Efforts Getting Outdated?

Photo by istockphoto
Photo by istockphoto

Leaders who step back and consider their employee engagement and outreach efforts for a moment may realize that they have lost the thread.

If employees are looking for new roles or considering leaving — and today, many are doing just that  — calling them “engaged” seems foolhardy. Instead of pouring more resources into the assessment metrics that are already in place, it could be better to simply change strategies at a base level.

It’s not too late to switch tactics, and every moment that a business pushes forward with a system that is failing to reach the modern workforce, the danger of losing those employees becomes more immediate.

What’s the new best approach?

Of course, if it’s time to break down the old way of performing, there must be something in its place.

Josh Bersin, in a recent article for Forbes, recently set out a potential new future for the world of employee retention techniques.

He posited that it’s time to move away from surveys, indicating that this is not a sufficient measure of whether employees really care about their roles. In addition to leaving traditional measurement tactics behind, it may also be time to abandon some of the long-held wisdom of the retention field.

Bersin stated, for instance, that the importance placed on the employee-manager relationship is somewhat misleading today. He cited recent research on the matter, indicating that the number of factors influencing employees to depart is now high. The findings included the fact that it is co-workers, rather than supervisors, who really determine whether workers stay or leave, and highlighted the huge role opportunities have in keeping employees loyal and engaged.

In Bersin’s view, the entire traditional concept of employee loyalty and engagement needs a revision. He stated that the key to improvement in these departments could be committing to the concept that people are the key to the business’ success and not a resource in the conventional sense, as is implied by the phrase “human resources.”

Complicated factors

Traditional measures of employee happiness and engagement may also be overlooking some of the more in-depth factors that determine how a work environment develops.

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HR Magazine (the UK version) recently suggested that health and wellness is part of this mixture. Leaders will need to monitor and be aware of the wellbeing of the employee base to keep them truly engaged.

An overwhelming majority of employees tend to say they are stressed or having trouble balancing their jobs with their private lives. Monitoring and taking action to help with these issues may reduce employee turnover.

Upgrading technology

Today’s workplaces are tied together by communications solutions, meaning that the better and more seamlessly integrated these tech tools are, the better the view leaders will have of conditions among the workforce.

Employee engagement software designed with up-to-date needs in mind can offer a much more sophisticated view than products designed to come up with an occasional survey result about the general happiness level of the firm.

Making such processes a feature of the daily routine rather than something to be occasionally consulted may bring swift and positive culture change.

Read more from David Bator on his blog: Beyond the Employee Survey.

David Bator is passionate about programs that move people. As Vice President of Client Strategy at TemboStatus he works with growing companies everyday and helps them bridge the gap between assessing employee engagement and addressing it with action. For the last 15 years David has worked with the leadership of companies large and small to build programs that leverage strategy and technology to deliver extraordinary value for employees, customers and partners. Contact him at


11 Comments on “Are Your Employee Engagement Efforts Getting Outdated?

  1. In order to receive loyalty they should give loyalty. When you mistreat a human, we go away because we choose better. Not like the beasts you all cling to. Seems like the key differences are going to need to be repeatedly mentioned in order to make people realize and bring humanity back together. Mentality has so much to do with it.

  2. I agree that fostering better relationship between co-workers is crucial for engagement and retention. Unresolved misunderstanding can break the whole team, that’s why real-time feedback is so important. Technology will help but it needn’t be complicated and has to be mobile-first in order to guarantee adoption.

  3. Employers have tried all sorts of things to create successful employees who don’t need to be managed. Teaching/preaching leadership has been replaced by employee engagement. That won’t work either until managers learn how to hire and manage employees who will become engaged if managed well, treated fairly, and paid accordingly. Fix the managers before attempting to fix their direct reports.

      1. Hello David,

        80% of employees self-report that they are not engaged.
        80% of managers are ill suited to effectively manage people.
        The two 80 percents are closely related.

        Employers keep hiring the wrong people to be their managers and then they wonder why they have so few successful, engaged employees. Successful employees have all three of the following success predictors while unsuccessful employees lack one or two and usually it is Job Talent that they lack.
        1. Competence
        2. Cultural Fit
        3. Job Talent ??

        Employers do a… ?
        A. GREAT job of hiring competent employees, about 95%
        B. good job of hiring competent employees who fit the culture, about 70%
        C. POOR job of hiring competent employees who fit the culture and who have a talent for the job, about 20%

        Identifying the talent required for each job seems to be missing from talent and management discussions. If we ignore any of the three criteria, our workforce will be less successful with higher turnover than if we do not ignore any of the three criteria.

        1. Competence
        2. Cultural Fit
        3. Job Talent

        There are many factors to consider when hiring and managing talent but first we need to define talent unless “hiring talent” means “hiring employees.” Everyone wants to hire for and manage talent but if we can’t answer the five questions below with specificity, we can’t hire or manage talent effectively.
        1. How do we define talent?
        2. How do we measure talent?
        3. How do we know a candidate’s talent?
        4. How do we know what talent is required for each job?
        5. How do we match a candidate’s talent to the talent demanded by the job?

        Most managers cannot answer the five questions with specificity but the answers provide the framework for hiring successful employees and creating an engaged workforce.

        Talent is not found in resumes or interviews or background checks or college transcripts.

        Talent must be hired since it cannot be acquired or imparted after the hire.

  4. @ David, Yes, my passion is “frontline nursing engagement”. As a CNO and quality improvement expert, it’s our job to lead the engagement journey. It is truly a journey. But doing things the “old” way, as you mentioned, is outdated and not moving us in the right direction. All the surveys in the world DON’T matter if you don’t spend time in the gemba,meet with the frontline staff, and understand the workflow to improve the safety culture. Here is a my recent blog: thanks for your post. Kate

    1. Thanks for your insight, Kate. I completely agree – you need to understand what is happening on the front line, especially given the nature of your work and impact on patient experience. I look forward to reading your blog.

  5. Too often workplace and employee issues are treated in terms of symptoms not root causes. We know how ineffective that is in terms of treating diseases. The root cause of most ills in the workplace stems from a non-supportive work environment. In some cases the back-breaking straw may be the bad boss, it may be co-workers, it may be excessive workloads, it may be undue stress … pick one! Only “fixing” one issue in the workplace won’t alleviate the problems caused by a non-supportive workplace and it won’t keep employees from seeking a way out.
    My book “Don’t Run Naked Through The Office” explains the four types of workplace environments and provides guidance on navigating the challenges of each. Creating a supportive work environment is not rocket science but it does take time and begins with building a trustful relationship between management and the employees.

  6. David let me play devil’s advocate a bit here: if we take the best rated company in the US as a place to work, year after year, and look at what they do, we see that they do a big survey once a year and a “pulse” monthly with a sample of people. I am talking about Google here. They are very smart and surely have access to the best talent on the People side of their business….yet this is what they do. Perhaps the issue here is that there is this binary argument, surveys or talking to people, treating them well, etc….but why not both? Its all very well for tiny firms to all get together on the CEO’s backyard for pizza and a chat, but when an organization gets to a certain size, leaders have a need to know “how our people are doing”. That is not always information which is easily available in a completely open and honest form, as I talk about here:

    So, for now, I am sticking with proven best practices which translate into clearly very happy workers and a fantastically successful performance: Google.

    best to you, David

  7. I think it’s important to constantly reassess your methods. Employees and the workplace are always changing. We need to make sure we are changing with them. Great read!

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