I agree with Susan LaMotte’s insightful HBR article Employee Engagement Depends on What Happens Outside of the Office where she writes, “Companies spend over $720 million each year on employee engagement, and that’s projected to rise to over $1.5 billion. And yet, employee engagement is at record lows—13% according to perennial engagement survey leader Gallup. What’s wrong here?”
I also agree with her explanation of the problem. “Perhaps human resources leaders are spending their money in the wrong places. Or the modern workforce is demanding more. Either way, our models and surveys aren’t working, and we’re making very little progress.”
“As a former HR leader for a Fortune 500 company,” she writes, “I’m all too aware of how flawed the system is. There are just too many external influences that affect employees’ performance. In fact, as my current team at exaqueo reviewed client data to help them address their problems with engagement, we confirmed that most employee engagement models are centered around the work experience and not on the employees.
“That’s the core problem. When we only try to understand and affect what happens at work, we ignore the most basic tenet of person-organization fit: employees bring their whole selves to work. What happens after the workday may be just as important as what happens during it.”
LaMotte’s findings are fascinating and it’s important to add that any company that’s looking to improve employee engagement—and bottom-line results—must first understand that work-life balance is a myth. There’s no such thing. Instead, employees have choices, and those choices affect how they engage with (and integrate) their work with their personal lives.
For example, when an employee makes a conscious decision to bring work home, that choice blurs the line between work and personal life. Similarly, when coworkers genuinely like each other they might choose to spend time together after hours—and this choice pulls their personal life into their work life. The boundary between business and pleasure is being eroded all the time and that is why work-life balance is better termed work-life integration.
A good company understands the level or degree of integration needed by its employees and will take a holistic point of view in creating employee engagement.
Does your company take a holistic view of employee engagement? It should. And if it isn’t, we can help.