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An Idiot’s Guide To Employee Engagement

This blogger’s Forbes post is kind of arrogant. Kind of right but kind of arrogant. He explicitly slams Daniel Pink’s book ‘Drive’ which is anyone’s right to do but the basis on which he does so is wrong. We could all ignore this as the rantings of an internet troll if this guy was not a professor and founder of “one of the country’s leading management research organizations.” (Is there a countdown show for those hosted by Ryan Seacrest?) He claims that Pink claims that money is not a motivator. That is not so. Pink specifically raves about money as a motivator:

– to get people to take a job in the first place, and

– in linear and repetitive tasks

What Pink refuses to accept is that money is always a motivator as traditional carrot-and-stick thinking would have us believe. I suspect the guy’s actual beef is that Pink is making money from books and speeches. They’re essentially saying the same thing – people are different and motivated by different things under different circumstances. One size does not fit all.

Actually for all his arrogance, I agree with almost all of what he says and his conclusions and that’s even after the prejudice with which which I read it due to his name being Edward E. Lawler III. Is it a peculiarly American thing to throw down that middle initial? Even so I don’t have too much a problem with that in isolation. At least It wasn’t E. Edward Lawler III with an initial first. I don’t know what it is but I just have an inherent distrust of the III. And that’s not just movies but people too. (Godfather III or Police Academy III anyone?) The middle initial and the III in tandem, well, that’s just a credibility double whammy to me.

Anyways, I totally agree with E.’s conclusion that:

“Looking at the results of employee engagement surveys and developing action plans based on them requires looking at the items on the survey in terms of what they measure. Do they measure satisfaction? Do they measure motivation? Once this is done, and only once it is done, does it make sense to think about action items such as making work more interesting, providing more job security, or rewarding performance with bonus plans?

“Yes, engagement scores are indicators of how good or bad a work situation is. In most cases, it is better to have higher rather than lower engagement scores, but in order to take action directed towards improving organizational performance, the items need to be looked at separately and used to make data-based changes that will drive employee retention, performance, and commitment.”

And he bangs onto about surveying people’s feelings for no specific purpose with which I agree too.

And I really love his point that people are different and motivated by different things at different times for different reasons. That’s a great point and a fundamental starting point for any workplace leader thinking and planning. He’s also right about writers trying to grab attention for the books which I certainly stress in my own book ‘The Brain-Based Boss’ available at 😉

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