Part 2: Don’t Focus on Experiences if You Want Performance
Enhanced Employee Engagement
Part 2: Don’t Focus on Experiences if You Want Performance
Money can’t buy love, fame can’t buy happiness, and experiences alone can’t buy engagement.
“Employee experiences” in terms of workplace perks don’t create employee engagement, at least not the type that drives results over the long-term by themselves.
Well-designed workplace experiences and perks can boost goodwill, loyalty, and performance for sure. But even the most attractive and well-meaning benefits fall short, and can even do harm if not part of an overall engagement strategy… and not part of an overall healthy environment with growth and impact.
To achieve the greatest impact and return on investment, leaders must understand the role employee engagement plays in driving performance, and the role employee experiences and perks play in enhancing that engagement.
The Power of Work with Meaning and Purpose
Employee engagement is not an activity or an outcome. Employee engagement is an essential output in terms of the target logic model for work today.
Despite its specific role in organizational success, employee engagement is not a “thing” for employees; it is a state of mind and being derived from work that has meaning and purpose… for them.
I present this in a previous blog and share this graphic below, which is also an illustration from my book, Reversing Burnout. How to Immediately Engage Top Talent and Grow! A Blueprint for Business Owners and Professionals.
The graphic depicts the impact “work with meaning and purpose” has on producing both “value to the organization” and “employee engagement”. The graphic also illustrates the reinforcing flow a “thriving culture” creates to drive “organization growth and profits”: the desired outcomes of the target logic model.
As leaders, we cannot expect to create and sustain employee engagement or have a thriving culture unless with first create the type of work top employees want – that with meaning and purpose, growth, and impact.
“Employee experiences and office perks alone cannot create engagement over the long-term; they can only enhance it”
-Peter C. Atherton
Where Employee Experiences and Perks Fit
Employee experiences and perks are important in terms of attracting and retaining the best talent. To maximize the benefits they must be part of an overall strategy for employee engagement that both supports the work that must be done and the performance that must be met.
In the context of an effective employee engagement strategy, workplace experiences and perks can be extremely effective. However, free smoothies and quarterly pizza parties and chair massages will never fix any underlying or negative work, leadership, or culture gaps over the long-term.
Even if there is some initial interest and attraction, it soon fades. In addition, a masking approach can create expectations for entertainment over the long-term, which further undermines employee engagement.
Employee experiences and perks also need to be balanced. Both individual wellbeing, as well as organization, division, group, office, and team wellbeing needs to be considered in order to achieve the greatest impact and return on investment.
How to Design an Employee Engagement Strategy
Similar to what it takes to design effective corporate social impact, an employee engagement strategy that is different and better needs to be leadership-led, or at least co-led with an inspired management and administrator team.
Winning the talent war today does not consist of relying on past norms or continuous “bolt-on” perks or benefits to “keep up with the Jones’” competition-wise to mitigate risk.
The best strategies transcend traditional human resource, operations, business development, and marketing silos. The best engagement strategies are also designed to produce personal and professional growth and impact opportunities for employees as they evolve and progress through their work and life seasons.
Only leaders have the authority (and the responsibility) to do these.
The best designs account for what is needed to:
- Perform as an organization, and
- Create the type of culture that supports that performance.
Knowing the destination, we can design the work and the workflow to better attract, retain, grow, and engage the best talent.
Creating a Healthy Environment
A healthy workplace environment is based on healthy relationships. A focus on creating and advancing healthy relationships was the focus of Part 1 of this series entitled, The Parent Hack to Advancing Relationships.
Leaders are responsible for creating a healthy workplace, and should be active and enthusiastic participants.
Leadership itself can’t instill engagement or create culture, but they can take action to create a healthy environment of trust, flexibility, growth, and impact that helps inspires their development.
“Two people can accomplish more than twice as much as one… Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”
-Solomon, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
Being Different and Being Better
Being different allows us to differentiate. Being better allows us to attract. Both produce opportunities for engagement and enhance our brand internally and externally.
From a leadership and design perspective, thinking beyond the status quo gives us an opportunity to be different. It also gives us an opportunity to do better than just iterating on “business as usual”.
Customized corporate social impact and community service learning projects are effective employee engagement strategies that also differentiate and attract.
I have personally designed dozens of engagement projects. Each time I witness significant individual and team growth that most do not fully expect – and this is especially true for leaders. Having a shared experience with different roles in a new context and mission is powerful in terms of increasing understanding, furthering relationships, and discovering new gifts and talents.
The Engagement Bottom-Line
Even the best and most attractive office experiences and workplace perks fade and don’t create the type of employee engagement that drives results over the long-term.
Work with meaning and purpose, healthy relationships, growth, and impact is what wins. And the data is crystal clear that organizations that win have high levels of employee engagement.
Top leaders choose to win by taking on the challenge of employee engagement, but they don’t do it in the context of just running a business… they do it differently and better. They do it in a way that personally invites employees to join the “movement” that propels them and their organizations forward.
About the Author
Peter C. Atherton, P.E. is an AEC industry insider with 29 years of experience, having spent more than 24 as a successful professional civil engineer, principal, major owner, and member of the board of directors for high-achieving firms. Pete is now the President and Founder of ActionsProve, LLC, author of “Reversing Burnout. How to Immediately Engage Top Talent and Grow! A Blueprint for Professionals and Business Owners”, and the creator of the I.M.P.A.C.T. process.
Pete works with AEC firms to grow and advance their success through modern and new era focused strategic planning, executive coaching, leadership and management development, performance-based employee engagement, and corporate impact design. Connect with him through the contact link below.