The Employee Engagement Paradox Resolved

In 2012 I realized that employee engagement was a paradox. Like many other organizations, at the time we were investing an incredible amount of time, energy and money on increasing employee engagement – in vain. Despite our best effort, engagement scores weren’t really moving and I found that really frustrating. 

Even global surveys are noting the same thing. Despite many billions of dollars being invested in increasing employee engagement, we are not moving the needle much at all. That led me to question whether we even know what employee engagement truly is in the first place.

My preferred measure of employee engagement is the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES). UWES defines work engagement as having a positive, fulfilling state of mind in your work. Essentially, UWES asks people about the quality of their human experience at work, regardless of how likely it is that they will work harder or expect to stay at the company in the future.

That’s a very different definition than other leading engagement surveys. It also makes more sense. UWES defines engagement based purely on the employee’s experience, their state of mind. That is what engagement is – a state of mind. 

Employee effort and retention are outcomes of engagement – not engagement itself. They are also benefits to the organization – but not necessarily to the individual.

And therein lies the paradox. 

Engagement itself is an outcome and we cannot manage outcomes. Outcomes happen as a result of other things being done well. Said differently, we cannot increase engagement by focusing on engagement. Instead, we need to look more deeply at the elements of engagement. We need to look at the things organizations can do to produce the engagement outcome. 

We’ve had this backwards for years.

 Let me explain.

One of the UWES questions is “when I wake up in the morning I feel like going to work.” What if an employee doesn’t? Do we send a team of people to their house at 7 am with donuts and coffee, proceed to walk them through their daily agenda and tell them why they should be excited about each and every meeting? That would be a bizarre experience and I am not sure the program would scale very well.

At SupportingLines we take a completely different approach to resolve the engagement paradox and increase work engagement. Rather than focusing on engagement itself, we studied the impact of cultivating a high-performance organization where leaders:

  • Help teams align (around a common set of goals that are tied to the mission & vision)
  • Help teams collaborate (to achieve those important goals)
  • Help people grow (both personally and professionally)

Our research shows that when leaders cultivate a high-performance organization, work engagement also increases. In fact, the 32 elements of our High-Performance Index™ (HPI) assessment are so strongly correlated with work engagement that they have predictive qualities. We’ve integrated these HPI questions with our High-Performance FrameworkTM to help leaders  focus on the biggest opportunities to cultivate high-performance and rapidly increase work engagement.

The results are dramatic and profound.  One company used SupportingLines to increase engagement by 30 points in a single quarter! That same company went from achieving about half of its goals to 90-100% of their goals in the same timeframe.

Our powerful HPI assessment takes only 5 minutes to complete and can be taken first as a Leader Self-Assessment, where you predict what your employees would say if we surveyed them. This gives you a feel for how it works.

Invest 5 minutes. Change your organization forever. 

To begin your SupportingLines journey please take 5 minutes to complete our FREE leader self-assessment. With the results from your self-assessment, you will receive a comprehensive analysis of areas to target. We also offer a live debrief with a coach to help you identify opportunities to cultivate high-performance and increase work engagement. This simple exercise will change the way you think about high-performance and engagement forever.

Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith

Jeff is the Founder & CEO of SupportingLines. He is also a certified Master Corporate Executive Coach, seasoned C-suite business leader and yoga instructor.

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