Need an Employee Engagement Solution? Print
By Martha Forlines and Thad Green

BSI Experts Lambast Traditional  Employee Engagement Solutions

There is a lot going wrong in the world of employee engagement these days. Problem is, leaders usually find out too late. Here’s what’s happening, along with suggestions for protection.

What’s Going Wrong

Employee Engagement SURVEYS

Engagement surveys are nothing more than employee opinion surveys by another name, this even though the Gallup organization points out a pressing need, reporting that only 29% of employees are truly engaged at work, costing U.S. employers $350b per year.

If you want to count the ways the surveys are the same, look here:

  1. Survey items are around the same old employee satisfaction stuff;
  2. Engagement surveys are completed anonymously too;
  3. Data continue to be aggregated for reporting;
  4. Survey results continue to show problems that are too pervasive, too elusive, too demanding, too costly, and too easy to let slide; and
  5. Good intentions to take action (based on results) lose momentum like usual.

Perhaps the biggest issue, aside from the surveys themselves, is this—if managers haven’t been held accountable to lead effectively in the past, who is going to hold them accountable now?

So what are you to do, if you want to crank up employee engagement a notch or two on your team?

Look for engagement surveys that have proven to work for teams and larger organizations.

Employee Engagement GOALS

Organizations want a workforce that is truly engaged—physically, emotionally, and intellectually—but this is not a realistic goal, and like all unrealistic goals is destined to fail.

The biggest reason will surprise you—employees don’t want to be truly engaged. At least most of them don’t.

Being truly engaged isn’t worth the effort. Sure, the company will benefit from heightened employee engagement, but seldom do employees.

At least not in equal measure to what they give,

And besides, employees have a life outside of work. More engaged means more work. And the more you produce, the more you’re expected to produce. Every employee knows this.

What’s behind this employee view? Leadership tends to have a one-way focus, and it’s not toward the employee. An “employee first” perspective is hard to find.

So how realistic is a “truly engaged” workforce?

True engagement is not likely until management adopts a “two-way street” attitude. This is where “truly engaged” begins, not with traditional employee engagement surveys and initiatives.

If you want to really tackle employee engagement, a change in leadership thinking is required.


Employee Engagement STRATEGIES

Traditional employee engagement strategies are flawed and are just another case of history repeating itself.

The blame clearly falls in the lap of ONE false assumption—that everybody is the same, that everybody will be more engaged if someone does the same 12 things for (or to) them.

Well it just isn’t so. The reality is that you’re not like the guy in the office or cubicle next to you. You’re not like your boss. You’re not like the people on your team.

Sure there may be some sameness, but the truth is this—everybody is different.

The workforce will never be truly engaged until leaders stop using “one size fits all” solutions.

Suggestions for Protection


Dig into Measures of Success

You’ll hear promise after promise. You’ll want to believe them, because you have an engagement problem and want to get if fixed quickly.

Do your homework. Ask for copies of studies which show measures of results. Expect people to back up their claims with something other than words. Be sure you know what you’re getting, and what you’re getting into, before you choose an employee engagement program.


Choose a Survey for the Right Reason

Employee engagement surveys can be useful, but . . .

You don’t need a survey to know you have an engagement problem.

And you don’t need one to tell you where the problems are the worst.

You do need an employee engagement survey to find out why employees are not engaged, and to identify solutions that will work for them.

If the survey doesn’t give you tailored solutions, you’re wasting your money.


Go Where the Need Is Greatest

Some people say conduct a survey and see what all of your employees have to say.  Why do you need to survey everybody? You can’t take on the whole world of employee engagement at one time. Don’t waste your money.

Set priorities. You may not know the state of engagement everywhere in the organization, but you know the areas where engagement is suffering most (where performance is suffering most). Go there first. Conduct surveys, get things going, prove yourself, and then branch out to the next greatest needs.


Say “No” to Blanket Solutions

You can clearly see that what engages one person does not engage another.

One employee thrives on public recognition, another cringes at the thought of it, preferring a private word of praise. Some employees yearn for grow and development, others have no such need, content with where they are. And while some employees want the boss to involve them in the decision making process, others seek to avoid responsibility at any cost.

The bottom line is that everybody is not the same. Treat everybody alike, you’ll please some, leave others disappointed, maybe even ticked off. This is no way to get everybody engaged.


Rethink Engagement Goals

Expect a wild ride with employee responses to engagement initiatives. A few will make complete turnarounds. Some will never be engaged, no matter what. (These need to be identified and addressed.)

Most employees can be expected to move up the engagement ladder a few notches.

This is a good thing. When large numbers make small improvements, it adds up in a big way.

So set realistic engagement goals.


Tackle the Accountability Issue

Accountability is the great predictor of employee engagement. Here’s why.

Employee engagement problems are tied directly to the manager—always. And for every manager not engaging his employees, someone is allowing it.

Employee engagement surveys and initiatives stand on sterile ground when there is an accountability issue.

So assess the state of accountability, and act accordingly.


Trust the Motivation-Engagement-Performance Connection

Employees do not perform well if they’re not engaged. And they’re not engaged if they’re not motivated.

This means you need to focus on employee motivation. That’s the real way to get an engaged workforce and performance improvement.



Getting employee engagement is pretty simple and basic. It all boils down to two things—avoid the big mistakes on the front end and do the important things right.

How to do this? Get informed (really informed). Take a different path than everybody else.

And remember—leaders who aren’t engaged are not going to engage those they lead! Scary thought, isn’t it?


Belief System Institute is a small, woman-owned business that has been offering proven employee motivation and engagement solutions for leaders since 1991. Research studies with documented results (published in Thad Green, Motivation Management, Davies-Black Publishing, 2000, Palo Alto, California), indicate that up to seventy percent (70%) of those who go through BSI programs show immediate and lasting improvements in motivation, engagement, and performance.

Female leaders who want a tailored, streamlined approach to employee engagement will want to check out INSPIRING WOMEN: BECOMING Courageous, Wise Leaders, by Martha and Thad, at




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