In reference to a recent Gallup survey of employee engagement that shows that 71% of employees are not engaged in their work, Wally Bock, in his Three Star Leadership Blog, offers these provocative observations:

After a full decade of high-priced experts and "engagement partners" laboring away, engagement scores have not changed significantly. Maybe it's time to send the consultants packing and see if we can find a better use for the money we've been paying them…Perhaps we can do better with homebrew methods of improving engagement. Perhaps we should quit worrying about engagement per se and turn our attention to something where our investment can make a difference…Remember this common definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

I think there are at least two other interpretations of the Gallup findings. One is that Gallup is not measuring  what many organizational leaders think is engagement. I have written in a previous post about the many definitions of employee engagement. Before managers can make sense of the Gallup findings, they need to know how Gallup defines “engagement” and if that definition works for them. Gallup uses the degree of agreement with 12 statements, known as the Q12™, that they have found to be strong predictors of performance in organizations. To me, the Gallup statements are more about the antecedents to engagement than the extent to which employees are committed to their work and willing to go the extra mile, which is how I define engagement.

Another interpretation is that it’s not that engagement interventions don’t work but rather it’s the way we’ve been doing them that’s the problem. My experience is that most managers have an event-mindset when it comes to increasing engagement. They believe (or they hope) that a two or three-day program will make employees engaged with their work, each other, and the organization. That’s magical thinking. Learning and performance change takes much more than a one-time event. It’s a process that requires a long-term commitment on the part of managers to developing and maintaining a culture that encourages and rewards engagement.