Monday January 19, 2015
Did you know that about $1 billion is spent on employee engagement initiatives annually in the U.S? Did you know that there isn’t a lot of proof that it’s helping the bottom line? Did you know that there isn’t a lot of proof that it’s helping employee engagement?
Half a century ago, Psychologist Frederick Herzberg came up with his “Motivation / Hygiene Theory,” which was basically counter to the conventional wisdom of his day. While others were saying that the same things that motivate employees could also serve as demotivators, Herzberg came up with two different lists. Motivators included things like achievement, recognition, the work itself, responsibility, advancement, and growth. His list of demotivators or hygiene factors included things like policies, supervision, relationships, working conditions, salary, status, and security.
Herzberg believed that the best you could do with items on the list of demotivators was to get them right and then move on; continuing to focus on them would not only not motivate, it would actually demotivate. Therein lies the problem. If Herzberg is right, most of the employee engagement surveys, initiatives, and solutions, all focus on demotivators. Continuing to focus on supervision, relationships at work, salary and security doesn’t solve engagement issues; it probably does the opposite. It’s kind of like when a used car salesperson tells you over and over again what a sweet deal you’re getting. The more the salesperson talks, the more skeptical you become.
Organizations spend lots of time and money focusing on things that won’t satisfy, all in an effort to improve employee engagement. Perhaps Herzberg is right – fix the demotivators and move on.
That doesn’t mean we can’t improve employee engagement. When we focus on the things that will motivate, we’ll find employee engagement goes up along with job satisfaction. It all comes down to what we want employees to be engaged in. If we try to engage them over and over again in discussions about pay, policies, or relationships, we’ll be spending time, money, and energy but won’t see results.
A better way is to engage your team in your real world issues like how to cut costs, how to increase sales, how to respond to new competition, how to branch into a new product line. When you do this, you allow them to be included, to achieve, to have responsibility – all things that are motivators. When you involve people in the business and decisions that impact their jobs, they engage in a way they never can from just a positive rah-rah speech or a Kum Ba Ya session. There’s a bonus too – you get a lot of help solving problems from a team that learns to think like owners rather than entitled employees.
I use a process that I learned early in my career working for Quality Guru and Best-Selling Author Philip Crosby. I’ve had to refine the process somewhat as labor laws have made things more difficult (but doable). And I’ve also applied his way of engaging employees to a whole lot besides quality.
I help organizations engage employees in a way that will get results while not costing nearly as much as conventional employee engagement methods. That kind of engagement will not only fix HR problems like morale and turnover, it will solve business problems and position your organization for long-term viability. That’s employee engagement that counts.