The Real Power of Engagement: Performance, Retention and … Profits?

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© frank peters -

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Engagement is a buzzword that can be tough to sell to the C-suite. Instead of engagement, could you sell retention, performance and, yes, even profits?

While it may seem like the connection between engagement and real, significant results is tenuous at best, there’s an argument (a legitimate one, too) that it can actually be one of the more significant investments that a company can make.

Defining the solution

One thing that is really interesting about buzzwords like engagement is how people latch on to the concept. Even at the HR Technology Conference this week in Las Vegas, I heard many vendors from all different parts of the spectrum talk about the potential for candidate and employee engagement in their products. Sure, they may be parroting the priorities of their customers, or what they are hearing competitors talk about their solution, but it doesn’t make it any less silly.

Let’s be a little more simple about this: it isn’t a technology problem, it is a people problem. There is no replacement for a great manager who knows how to communicate well with their employees. None.

The technology exists for engagement right now, shoes to walk over to someone’s office, a telephone to call someone who is out of town, or email to find someone who can’t be reached by either.

So, how do you do engagement right?

This week, TLNT Editor John Hollon and I had the opportunity to talk to Kevin Kruse. Kruse is the co-author of  We: How to Increase Performance and Profits Through Full Engagement and a popular keynote speaker on the topic. He had a variety of studies up his sleeve that he could share with us as well as thoughtful stories about his own experiences as well.

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Where are we with engagement? “The state of engagement is low but it isn’t just since the great recession kicked in,” he said. In fact, we are actually in our lowest engagement level for as long as the measurement has been taken (1987). Even as improvements surfaced, we saw engagement continue to take a hit.

“Culture trumps strategy every day of the week, Kruse said. One of the key benefits — one of the ones that has HR people most concerned — is the fact that higher engagement leads to lower turnover and is one of the best investments you can make for the impact.

And those managers who need to be talked through every employee interaction? He said, “We need to embed it into the daily routines of our managers.” It needs to be like checking email or following a common procedure.

Listen to the entire radio show below to get the rest of the great podcast.

[buzzsprout episode=”32960″ player=”true”]

Lance Haun is the practice director of strategy and insights for The Starr Conspiracy, where he focuses on researching and writing about work technology. He is also a former editor for ERE Media, broadly covering the world of human resources, recruiting, and sourcing. 
He has been featured as a work expert in publications like the Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, MSNBC, Fast Company, and other HR and business websites.
He's based in his Vancouver, Wash., home office with his wife and adorable daughter. You can reach him by email or find him off-topic on Twitter.