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On Employee Engagement – can it be improved?

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Recently we have come across an article on “Department of Finance”, where the author Ethan Macey posits that it’s impossible to consistently increase employee engagement. He says that the engagement you get is from employees who would always be engaged, regardless of any activities an organisation puts out there to increase it.

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Everyone else is and always will be hopelessly disengaged until the end of times and trying to get them to engage is a pointless task:

Now what about the others, those employees whose motivation you wonder how to increase. Ain’t going to happen. Some may improve with some training or praise or mentoring. Some may improve with threats or negative performance reviews or other forms of punishment. They may respond positively for a while and you’ll think “Ah, I found the secret” but you didn’t. All you did was learn something about human nature. People are drawn toward pleasure or away from pain. As soon as whatever is acting as the catalyst to change their behavior is removed or lessened, they will fall back to their true nature. You cannot keep your attention on them long enough to increase employee motivation for the long term. And you shouldn’t have to.

As leaders we have to accept that employees cannot be motivated to improve their performance. Assuming we can change an adult’s attitude and behavior is fruitless. Once we acknowledge this fact we can make informed choices about our options. That’s where you as a leader have power, not in attempting to increase employee motivation.

Here at Wazoku we don’t agree with this stance, if only because we see our customers successfully increasing the participation rate of their employees every day. Take Waitrose, for example: they ran a trial for 6 months with our idea management platform, Idea Spotlight on six of their branches and Stuart Eames, their Operational Improvement Manager said:

We’ve had more ideas submitted from just six stores in the first six months of working with Wazoku than we did in the last six months across the whole of Waitrose with our previous innovation scheme.

Expecting a 100% engagement rate would be unrealistic but in a world where statistics say that the majority of employees are disengaged, there is still a lot of room for improvement. It’s not that difficult and if we’ve learned something from our only experience, is that providing people with the right tools and having the right culture makes a world of difference.

To find out how Waitrose used idea management software to improve employee engagement, check out our Case Study.

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