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I agree. Paul Hebert has hit the nail squarely on the head. Employee engagement has become a battleground for dueling definitions and instruments. And engagement is what systems people call an "emergent property." You don't create it directly. It's like love. You get it by creating the conditions where it can flourish.

We don't need an engagement survey to tell us what they are, either. I recently posted on what makes a great working environment (http://blog.threestarleadership.com/2009/05/26/8-characteristics-of-highly-effective-workplaces.aspx ). Create one of those and you won't need to worry about engagement.

To be fair, some of the engagement programs, such as Gallup's, seem to recognize this. But most don't seem able to admit it because it would mean abandoning something that's become part of the organization's brand. That is putting the marketing cart before the performance horse.


Well said - and your eight characteristics are right on. Of course, doing things takes principles, discipline and commitment. Sometimes wish we'd hear those words used more often and "engagement" less...

Question... Why is concentrating on improving leadership & management skills mutually exclusive from employee engagement? Can't improving employee engagement be a goal of improving managers? The bottom line is if you want to improve employee engagement and your strategy is to do that via developing your managers then everyone wins - it doesn't have to be an either or situation.

Oh Ann, your writing just gets better and better. I just stopped by to check in on you.

Good management IS an employee engagment system. The best one, end of story!

Thanks for your words. Excellent, as usual!


At least one commenter over on the Business Week site made the same point - and you're right, of course. These things aren't mutually exclusive. I think Paul's point is to be clear on which is the cart and which is the horse, and to put the right one out in front.

Thanks for the comment!


Thanks for checking in and for sharing the generous compliment - particularly appreciate it coming from you!

I believe that employee engagement and effective leaders go hand-in-hand. Effective leaders should be engaging all of their employees to where they feel that they know what is expected of them, how they can get to that point, that they are being treated fairly, etc. I agree with Wally in that your leaders need to create a great working environment before they start investing money in employee engagement programs. I believe that poor leaders are placing blame on the employees when really they need to perform a self evaluation first.

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About The Author

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    Compensation consultant Ann Bares is the Managing Partner of Altura Consulting Group. Ann has more than 20 years of experience consulting with organizations in the areas of compensation and performance management.

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