Employee engagement – a relationship in crisis?

Is the standard ‘engagement survey’ process a sign of an unhealthy employer/employee relationship? asks The Human Energy Organisation’s Penny Hunt.

Endangered qualities in workplaces at the moment include enthusiasm and optimism.

Misery, on the other hand is booming.

If a psychotherapist were idly to review the latest productivity, sickness, satisfaction data around the perilous state of ‘employee engagement’, they would diagnose a relationship in crisis. And in everyday life, that usually means someone is about to leave.

The relationship metaphor is helpful.

Engagement measures, culture studies, satisfaction surveys have one oddly-overlooked quality in common. They signal a non-genuine, going-through-the-motions, display of faked interest in the other person.

They are all about the employer (the upper hand in the relationship) instructing the employee (the weaker hand in the relationship) to complete sets of questions that may not address the things that matter to the employee. The employer fails to demonstrate an interest in, or deduce, which aspects of the relationship might matter most to the employee, whose real concerns, values, wishes or needs remain unknown.

Ignoble motivations?

Shining through the whole process is the possibly ignoble motivation of the exercise – to get the employee to do something more / better / faster for the employer.

Doesn’t sound like a healthy relationship, does it?

The dominant logic – never questioned – in these sorts of surveys is the belief that employee behaviour and attitudes can be … changed: just as in a clichéd (and doomed) relationship where one partner is constantly seeking to change the other.

The relationship advice here is simple, and involves two golden rules.

The first is to stop trying to change the other person, and look to one’s own behaviours. The business equivalent would be to start listening more, controlling less, and creating the opportunities for creative conversations.

The second is to pay attention, properly, to the other person. The business equivalent here would be to ask, with interest, what matters to the employee, and then respond intelligently and effectively.

There’s a now a way to do exactly this.

The Human Energy Organisation’s eGap energy metric is a quick, insightful, and powerful key to relationship therapy within a business.

By speedily, but sincerely, understanding what matters to the employee, and whether this is matched by the employee’s experience within the organization, a conversation begins and an action plan developed. The process of building and strengthening the relationship begins.

Don’t send out another traditional satisfaction survey. Have a look at how the new eGap diagnostic works and use it to start a conversation that matters with the significant others in your own organisation.

It’s really, really, not all about you.


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