What is in this article?:
- Seven Drivers for Performance-Driven Engagement
- Apple, RIM Provide an Example
Employee engagement is the most fashionable human resources concept. In theory, engaged employees are harder working, more loyal, even more passionate about their jobs than others. A 2011 Society for Human Resource Management survey found that 69% of HR professionals believed engagement is the most important HR challenge.
Every major HR consulting firm has an engagement offering and presents studies showing the importance of engagement and the superiority of its own metric. For example, a 2008 Gallup Consulting study claimed that disengaged employees cost the U.S. economy over $300 billion in lost productivity, and that organizations in the top quartile on its engagement measure showed 18% greater productivity, 12% greater profitability, 27% less absenteeism, 51% less turnover, and 62% fewer safety incidents than organizations in the bottom quartile.
Should we be skeptical?
Despite the hard sell, engagement is not something truly new and different. Engagement overlaps conceptually and empirically with older measures of job satisfaction, morale, job involvement, and organization commitment. For example, Gallup researchers reported in 2002 that the correlation between job satisfaction and Gallups 12-item engagement measure was a whopping .91, indicating that these measures are essentially interchangeable.
Employees responding to surveys simply do not make fine distinctions between abstract concepts. As a result, engagement measures are nothing new.
Engagement studies also have a causality problem. Nearly all engagement studies are correlational, assuming that because high-performing companies have high engagement scores, increasing engagement scores will lead to increased performance. However, reverse causality is more plausible. That is, employees may have higher engagement scores because their employer is more successful.