Employee Engagement Should Be the End Goal, Not the Starting Point

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Jun 26, 2015
This article is part of a series called Higher Performance Workforce.

Roy and Beth have been dating for a year.

One night after a romantic dinner in a posh restaurant, Roy pretends to drop a napkin on the floor. While reaching down to get it, he falls to one knee, pulls a big, shiny ring out of his coat pocket, and proposes to Beth.

Totally caught off guard and beaming with joy, Beth tearfully accepts. The two are now engaged.

Six months later, Roy and Beth’s engagement comes to a screeching halt.

What happened?

They got married. The engagement ended the moment the marriage began.

The moral of this story? Engagement is not the finish line where the race ends. It’s just the starting line where the real race begins.

The bar is set too low

If you search for books on employee engagement on Amazon, you’ll get more than 7,200 results. It’s as if mere engagement is the end-all, be-all “Holy Grail” that employers are striving to achieve.

But as this 14- year-old kid on his very first day of his very first job clearly demonstrates, most employees arrive to the job on Day No. 1 fully engaged, which is to say they have a vested interest in meeting or even exceeding your expectations.

Like you, they’re optimistic about the opportunities of the job and they want to put their best face forward and make a strong first impression to gain your trust and be perceived as a great fit with promising long-term prospects.

The challenge facing employers isn’t how to engage employees — it’s how to keep the fires of passion burning once the honeymoon period is over.

Too often the focus is all about sweeping people off their feet with a sexy job posting, romancing them throughout the interview process, and then proposing to them with a pie-in-the-sky offer of a rosy future. When the desired candidate says, “I do,” the employer chalks that up to a victory and goes in search of the next proposal.

Winning the talent war

Today, those companies that are attracting and retaining the top talent in their respective industries have their sights set on more than just “I do.”  They concentrate heavily on inspiring an ever-increasing level of performance and productivity that continues to blossom as the employment relationship matures. And to achieve that result, they know that they have to keep the romance alive long after the honeymoon phase has ended.

In a search to find out how today’s top employers have been able to burst through this “engagement ceiling” to create cultures where employees are on fire for their jobs and consistently perform as if they own the company, I’ve found seven cultural pillars that are common to the truly great companies.

I’ve interviewed the founders, presidents, and CEO’s of those celebrated companies and have provided their insights and strategies in my new book, On Fire at Work: How Great Companies Ignite Passion in Their People Without Burning Them Out, releasing this fall.

ON POINT: Why set your sights on merely having your people engaged in their jobs and your business?

Aim higher. Invest your time, money, and resources in making your company the best possible place anyone could want to work for, and you’ll draw the top talent to you without investing heavily in high-end recruiting tactics.

This was originally published on Eric Chester’s blog Chester on Point. His new book, On Fire at Work: How Great Companies Ignite Passion in Their People Without Burning Them Outwill be available in October 2015.

This article is part of a series called Higher Performance Workforce.
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