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Published on: Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Road to Employee Engagement is a Journey, Not a Destination


Given the economic and organizational pressures of today, many human resource leaders are talking about employee engagement, engagement surveys and getting their people back on track.

But it's especially important to recognize that arriving at some improved, future condition of employee engagement is a journey, not a destination.

True, employee engagement is essential to maximize enterprise return on talent, and engagement surveys can help organizations establish a baseline or snapshot of engagement at a point in time. But where the rubber really hits the road is the point at which HR leaders recognize that no single program can guarantee a cross-workforce increase in engagement. That's because employee populations — yes, plural — work differently and will respond differently to new engagement initiatives and stimuli.

Of course, enterprise culture is the foundation upon which engagement must be built, and leaders' decisions about how and with whom they spend their time and attention either helps cement that foundation or chips it away brick by brick.

Engagement shouldn't become a "project," nor can it be realized with broad-brush strokes. Rather, it must be realized through targeted means that recognize the way to engage employees is to understand what they value, what they expect from the organization and its leaders, and what it will take to get them to give it their best every day.

Engagement requires continual focus on aligning corporate needs with individual needs. Connecting meaningfully with employees, listening to them, providing them feedback and encouraging them to see how they're contributing to enterprise objectives is critical, and understanding that the levers of engagement aren't all the same.

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Joseph Daniel McCool's avatarJoseph Daniel McCool
Joseph Daniel McCool is senior contributing editor with ExecuNet and principal of management recruiting/succession advisory firm The McCool Group. He is also the author of Deciding Who Leads: How Executive Recruiters Drive, Direct & Disrupt the Global Search for Leadership Talent, recognized widely as "one of the best business books of 2008," and its Brazilian Portuguese translation, Escolhendo Líderes, published in June 2010.

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