Do You Think High Employee Engagement Drives Productivity ? Think Again

What we need now is a "Sustainable Engagement", the kind that leads to enthusiasm, motivation and productivity, without the Burnout.

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Every company in the world venerate employee engament. In fact over the last two decades measuring employee engagement has been the primary way that large companies use to determine their employees’ level of commitment and productivity.

In addition to this a lot of studies have reported a correlation between high employee engagement and performance.

Is it really like that ?

First of all we have to start analyzing one of the most common definition of engagement : “the willingness to invest discretionary effort at work” — that is, to go above and beyond what’s expected. This is obviously so good for an employer, but too often it means that employees get to work early, stay late and remain connected at night and on weekends.

This way of working may take to Burnout and not to enduring high performance.

Every year Fortune Magazine released its list of the top 100 companies to work for, compiled by the Great Place to Work Institute. I’m not aware of a single one that isn’t struggling with the issue of employees who feel exhausted and pushed to their limits.

If you are expected to work 60 hours a week, or to stay connected in the evenings and on the weekends, or you can’t take at least four weeks of vacation a year, or you don’t have reasonable flexibility about when and where you work, then your company can’t be a great place to work. This is true even if the company has a noble mission and a higher purpose beyond profit.

So even if more than 100 studies have affirmed the connection between employee engagement and performance the Towers Watson 2012 Global Workforce Study — 32,000 employees across 30 countries — found that high engagement as it has been traditionally defined is no longer sufficient to fuel the highest levels of performance in a world of relentlessly increasing demand.

In a broader analysis of 50 global companies, Towers Watson found that companies with low engagement scores had an average operating margin just under 10 percent. Those with high traditional engagement had a slightly higher margin of 14 percent. Companies with the highest “sustainable engagement” scores had an average one-year operating margin of 27 percent.

What’s required now is something called “sustainable engagement.” The key factor, the study finds, is a work environment that more fully energizes employees by promoting their physical, emotional and social well-being.

As Tony Schwartz, the President and CEO of The Energy Project, says: “Many employers are pursuing a variety of wellness efforts, typically focused on giving incentives or penalties to people who embrace healthy behaviors like exercise, good diet or effective management of a chronic illness,” the report concludes. “These are important, but to sustain energy, employers have to go beyond these core programs and embrace the notion of workplace energy on a far broader plane.”

So what is energy, exactly?

In this case is what’s required to bring our skill and talent to life, without sufficient energy, skill is nothing.

For organizations, the challenge is to shift from their traditional focus on getting more out of people, to investing in meeting people’s core needs so they’re fueled, and inspired to bring more of themselves to work, more sustainably.

Infact the Towers Watson stady concludes that organizations must create policies and practices that make it possible for employees to better manage their workload, live more balanced lives and exercise greater autonomy around how, when, and where they get their work done. For example policies focused on flexibility and working remotely contribute to a more energized workplace.

So what companies really need to measure right now is not how engaged their employees are, but rather how consistently energized they feel. That means focusing not just on inspiring them and giving them opportunities to truly add value in the world, but also on caring for them and providing sufficient time to rest and refuel.

In conclusion, engagement is the key.

It can be a key driver of business success, but unless it is matched with wellbeing support and good stress policies, the effects can be counter-productive as also says Andy Gibson.

What we want now is a smart engagement, the kind that leads to enthusiasm, motivation and productivity, without the Burnout.

Originally published at

Well-Being, Work Smarter, Mental Health, Stress, Work Culture

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