Who Are The Engagement Gatekeepers?

Lately I have been talking to and working with a lot of people regarding engagement. In work circles, the term engagement is used to describe how happy and connected your employees are to your company. We say happy AND connected because you can have happy employees but they may not be connected to your mission, vision and goals which means they are not promoting your brand which means they are not helping you achieve total success.

A happy employee comes to work every day and does their job but that’s all. They aren’t going to participate in your surveys, community events, and any other extra initiative that you may execute. They meet expectations while not really exceeding them but they are happy about it.

An unhappy employee comes to work most of the time, does just enough not to get fired. You may have to talk to them several times about their attitude or performance or both, frequently I might add. These are the employees that talk bad about the company in the bathroom, break-room, smoker’s area, during the team meetings and even to customers from time to time.

What do I know about it? Well, I’ve been both. I can tell you that there were times in my career where I did just enough to not get to shit canned.  I should make it clear that this was better HR. Yes, I’ve held several jobs before I got into HR.  Back then, I skated through the workdays. I was a nice guy (always a nice guy) but I was not the best employee. Also I never bad mouthed my employer to customers but in the common areas of the workplace and at home, it was on.

I could say that it was the company’s fault for not training me, or not providing great leadership, or for having a glass ceiling, or low pay but really it’s my fault too.

Honestly, I was not happy, I take responsibility and I took control of my happiness. You may have heard countless stories of how someone lost a job due to the economy or whatever and then decided to pursue their passion and now they are happy! That’s me.

Unfortunately, today most people aren’t very accountable and instead of being honest with themselves, they tend to blame the company, the co-workers, the job; anyone but themselves. They are in denial about it.

Increasing engagement is important and here’s why.

Take a look at  Zappos! (I know you are sick of hearing about them) but they take engagement and talent extremely seriously, they will pay unhappy employees $2000.00 to quit. Yes and they aren’t the only ones. Amazon will pay employees up to $5,000.00 to quit, pending on years of service. (As a business professional you should understand why they make this offer – it’s economics – a math problem; unhappy employees cost more to keep then to let go and replace) 

Much like branding, I see engagement as an overall operations issue and not only a hiring or human capital management problem. Branding is part of every employee’s responsibility; the way you behave at work, in the community and on social media helps or hurts your brand. The same can be said for engagement.

Engagement can be screwed-up in the recruiting process, the benefit and salary negotiations, the onboarding process, the team environment and the relationship with managers and directors and sometimes, it has nothing to do with you or the company – people are depressed, about 20% of the workforce suffers from depression.

Employees can be divas!

  • “What difference does that make as long as I get my work done?”
  • “What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?”
  • “Why should I attend the company event?”
  • “They don’t pay me enough for that?”
  • “It’s not in my job description!”
  • “Why can’t I work from home?”

The list goes on and on. The responsibility to increase engagement can’t be put on area over another – it has to be addressed as a team.  Disengagement is at 70% – yes SEVENTY PERCENT! That’s way too high. And although I’m not a practitioner I know damn well we can do better than that.

Start small; say a kind word to your employees more often. Don’t be such a hard ass, lighten up, and let your employees have fun. Be flexible with benefits, I cannot tell you how many of clients have called me bragging out some small perk that means the world to them, e.g. an hour off early every Friday, gourmet lunches, flexible holiday and extra paid time off.

Don’t time their bathroom breaks like these dummies (click here). If your employees are hiding in the bathroom then you need to think about why your company stinks so bad that people would rather hide in the crapper (literally) than to work there.

Every department, manager, supervisor and executive needs to stop pointing fingers and team up to tackle engagement. If you do you will effect positive change in all other areas of your business. 


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