The Only Employee Engagement Tool that is Sustainable

I wrote a post last week that some people had some issues with about employee engagement and decline effect – the basic premise being the more you do “stuff” to increase employee engagement, the less effect it will ultimately have, and in fact eventually the engagement will start to decline over time.  Not earth shattering stuff, but for those folks in the heat of fighting the employee engagement battle right now, they don’t really want to hear that kind of stuff.

So, I thought about it and asked myself this one simple question:

What thing (or things) could you do to increase employee engagement  – that wouldn’t be impacted (or impacted less) by the decline effect?

Everyone will tell you financial compensation type things have little impact employee engagement – which is one of HR’s biggest lies by the way – they do impact engagement, but they are hardly sustainable long term.  You will always find someone willing to spend more than you, buy better benefits than you and do more “stuff” than you to help increase the engagement of their workers.  (And yes – I get the difference between satisfaction and engagement!  But for the HR Mgr working in the trenches – Employee Satisfaction and Employee Engagement run parallel 99.9% of the time – that’s the real world folks)

Autonomy and flexibility are huge drivers for engagement – but again very difficult for most organizations to sustain long term.  You begin with the best intentions, then business imperatives shift quickly – and your once great driver of positive engagement, becomes a huge drag on employee engagement.   Once you give Mary every Friday off and the world is great – asking Mary to begin working every Friday again will not work out well from an engagement standpoint.

Communication, transparency, hard skill development, charitable causes, etc. are all great things to help in driving positive employee engagement – but all hard to sustain over and extended period of time, especially as leadership teams evolve and change.

So, what is it?


  • Timely
  • Frequent
  • In the moment
  • Formal
  • Informal
  • Individualized
  • Group
  • Positive
  • Constructive


Feedback is the one thing organizations can commit to, long term, that will have a driving, lasting impact to employee engagement.  Our worlds are always all rosy and happy – sometimes we have professional messages that suck.  It’s easy to drive high employee engagement when the organization is high profitable and hiring and throwing Friday afternoon BBQ’s each week.  It’s really freaking tough to sustain high engagement when the real world hits your organization in the face.  But creating a culture that is going to deliver consistent feeback in good and bad times – where employees know exactly where they stand (good or bad) and can engage in the feedback process – will always ensure you have the highest engagement possible for your organization.

Not big implementation plan. Printing up and hanging of posters. Bi-Annual surveys. Just good old straight in your grill feedback.  It’s all we really wanted to begin with.

It’s also the hardest thing to do in your organization!  That’s why we try everything else first…


6 thoughts on “The Only Employee Engagement Tool that is Sustainable

  1. Your ideas on this are are spot on. Some of the methods being used to engage and retain employees aren’t good strategy over the long term. Feedback might not be the only thing, but it’s a sure thing.

  2. Great post, Tim. I think you’re spot on re: providing feedback; the key is to provide feedback in their language. Since we all communicate and are driven differently, this may be one of the most important things a manager can do.

  3. and my feedback is – #truth.

    Feedback/validation is what we all want at the end of the day. We want to feel we’ve made a difference and the time and energy we put forth was worth something. Too bad many managers think their job is to “manage” instead of enable. Great post Tim… thanks.

  4. Bang on! It’s about good one on one management! Making sure you recognize what people do for you and your company that make them valuable. Everyone wants to feel like they contribute…so feedback plus everything else, compensation, benefits, awards will do the trick but a little stroking goes a long way..we all need it.

    Great article Tim!

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