What’s the point of employee engagement?

Some years ago I worked for a company that had an issue with absenteeism. People were off sick all the time, and it was costing the company a lot of money, not to mention the impact on customer service and general morale around the office… So what was the company’s (well meaning) solution to this issue? They put in place an entire absence management team, a team of six or so people, recruited for their terrier like investigation skills.

The team was charged with developing and implementing an absence management policy to reduce absenteeism.  They became a kind of company mafia, feared by many, even those with legitimate cause to be absent.  They operated a “guilty until proven innocent” approach and whilst, in the short-term, absence did come down, in the long-term a whole lot of damage was done.  Morale dropped further, engagement fell, more people left the company and worse still was the impact on customers – it really wasn’t good…

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated story, but one I see all too often. Companies struggling with the usual people issues often focus on the symptom, rather than considering the root cause.

Do any of these sound familiar to you?

  • Problem with high employee turnover? Implement a loyalty bonus, or long term incentive plan…
  • High absenteeism? Put in place a draconian policy to make it almost impossible to take a day off sick without fear of negative repercussions…
  • Poor quality? Put in place stringent targets and measures…
  • Lack of innovation? Let’s introduce an ideas scheme or an innovation bonus…

What all of these solutions fail to do, is to analyse the root cause of the symptoms presented: which of course is low engagement or even disengagement.

The ever growing body of research proves that if you get it right with your people, if you engage them, then all of these issues start to go away, and better still, they stay away.  We know from the research that high engagement links to lower employee turnover, lower absenteeism, higher quality, more innovation, the list goes on.

So yes, there a very valid point to engagement: to help your business succeed.

Then why do so many organisations try to fix these issues in the ways I’ve outlined above? I believe because engagement is such a big, intangible, often abstract concept it’s difficult to know where to begin. It’s like saying we need better communication, or better leadership or we want to be happier – all hard to argue with but in a practical terms where do you begin?

The problem is that the root causes of the symptoms listed above, the root causes of dis-engagement are not straightforward to pinpoint. It could be employees have no clear sense of purpose, or struggle to understand why they are there. Maybe leaders and managers are compounding the problems, treating people badly or simply not understanding how to be an engaging manager. Perhaps employees don’t feel very valued, or trusted, or maybe they have limited opportunities for autonomy.

These are some of the root causes of the symptoms so many organisations are struggling with. These are the root causes that result in disengagement. By focusing on the root causes of business issues we have achieved the following results with some of our clients:

  • A reduction in employee turnover – saving over £400,000
  • An Increase in sales contribution of over £6 million
  • A reduction in absenteeism – saving over £250,000
  • And an improvement in employee engagement index scores by over 70%

So, if you’re interested in finding out how employee engagement can transform your business, why not get in touch today?

1 comment


By Carolyn Nixon on April 21, 2017

Great article Emma
For some companies having an engaged workforce also has a huge impact on safety. Companies with great employee engagement also see a reduction in Lost Time Incidence.
I agree with all your points and would also include the recognition and giving employees a voice.

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