Employee Engagement Is No Picnic

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Seriously, employee engagement isn’t spurred by casual Fridays or company picnics. Effective engagement efforts aren’t perks thrown at the workforce dartboard in hopes of hitting a bull’s eye. Employee engagement takes constant communication, change and growth.

We can talk about the benefits of employee engagement all day; but what it all boils down to in business, is the Engagement Profit Chain, as outlined by Forbes contributor and serial entrepreneur, Kevin Kruse (@K_Kruse).

Engaged Employees Lead to…

Higher service, quality, and productivity, which leads to…
Higher customer satisfaction, which leads to…
Increased sales (repeat business and referrals), which leads to…
Higher levels of profit, which leads to…
Higher shareholder returns (i.e., stock price)

I believe that’s an end goal that we can all agree on, but many are going about it the wrong way. Picnics aren’t necessarily doing anything in the way of harming employee engagement efforts, but to be honest, they aren’t exactly doing anything to build it either. You can throw all the perks in the world at an employee and they’ll probably stay, but those perks alone won’t increase engagement.

Stop confusing engagement with happiness.

Too many employers are walking around believing that employee satisfaction and employee engagement are synonymous; and they’re definitely not. This is a critical distinction for employers to make. They can have a workforce of the happiest folks you’ve ever met, that doesn’t mean that any one of them are engaged in their work.

Ryan Scott, blog author on CauseCast, a corporate philanthropy and volunteering platform said:

“A satisfied employee might be perfectly content to punch in and out, performing his assigned job and nothing more. Alternatively, an engaged employee is emotionally invested in the success of her organization and brings a certain level of passion and commitment to her job. An engaged employee looks for meaning in her work and strives for a legacy of achievement.”

Now does that sound like something a picnic, or company logo t-shirt will do? Nope, sure doesn’t.

It is measurable.

So many employers are left in such a predicament. How, oh, how will we ever figure out our employee engagement issues? As a professional in the employee engagement field for some years now, I will share with you the most helpful and best kept secret about measuring employee engagement. Are you ready? Ask!

Employee engagement is completely measurable, with continuous feedback. That’s right –ask questions, collect data and make changes based off of it.

This always makes me think of the little kid who doesn’t want to mow the lawn. They don’t know how to get it started. It’s too big. They don’t know how to make it go. Many of the organizations that I have worked with in the past, don’t take on serious engagement efforts because they are concerned about just how big of a project they’re taking on. Then they start the mower, and realize it’s not all that bad.

It shouldn’t all come from the top.

No offense, but the top is usually where the “throwing perks at the workforce dartboard” tactics come from. Workers and managers at all levels of the organization should be involved in engagement initiatives. While it’s important for execs to lead they way, they could do a much better job at that with some real, front-line insights. Ideas that will make a change in the middle- and lower-level workforce, are going to come from them.

Employee engagement speaker Dave Zinger outlined 21 contemporary employee engagement tools and concepts. He recommends co-creating survey questions with employees. This practice will not only generate more relevant questions, it will also ensure that questions are not phrased or crafted to sway, or influence the answers.

Speaking metaphorically, employee engagement is definitely a picnic –a feast, in fact! However, company picnics aren’t getting us there. Employee engagement efforts can’t be a shot in the dark at making a few people happier, they have to be strategic and purposeful in order to be effective.


photo credit: Florian SEROUSSI via photopincc

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Melissa Dawn Photiades

Melissa Dawn Photiades

A marketing professional with over a decade of leadership experience. Melissa has led marketing teams in companies ranging from travel to fundraising to small business apps, always multiplying results with her contagious ambition. And while the pressure of being the marketing mastermind would be more than enough for most pros, Melissa is also VP of Talent Management of Herd Wisdom.


  1. Thanks for mention Melissa. I do love the phrase from Positive Deviancy: “Never do anything about me without me.” And this would include generating employee engagement questions. All the best with all of your work.

  2. Great piece Melissa. This is one of the best explanations on what engagement is and how it really impacts business if measured and managed correctly. I will be sharing this with all of my connections.

  3. My honest experience has been happiness increases engagement. Happy people are not always easily detected because it may be the quiet non-english speaking person who is actually learning and having fun serving who has so much to offer!!

  4. I thought about this even more and would like to add “better engaged” Maybe happy people are not “more” engaged (but could be with opportunity)as happy people are genarally more engaged in life in general anyway – no? We are either depressing or expressing. Back to pondering this one..thanks!

  5. Empowering a workforce is easy to do;
    have all…
    1. executives,
    2. managers
    3. supervisors
    do their jobs well all of the time.

    Employees will be doing their jobs well if everyone above them is doing their jobs well. Look out, employee engagement is about to take hold. Some employers want to skip the executives, managers and supervisor parts and go right to the employees, but that is not how employees get engaged.

    80% of managers are ill-suited to be managers so we should not be surprised that 80% of employees self report themselves as unengaged.

    Employers have tried all sorts of things to create successful employees who do need to be managed. Teaching/preaching leadership has been replaced by employee engagement. That won’t work either until managers learn how to hire and manage employees who will become engaged if managed well, treated fairly, and paid accordingly which means employers need to hire managers who are well-suited to be managers.

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