All for One and One for All! Employee Engagement Peanut Butter.

Paul Hebert Employee Coaching, Employee Communications, Employee Development, Employee Engagement, Engagement and Satisfaction, HR, Leadership, Learning, Performance, Talent Management, Talent Strategy, wellness

I started my own blog in 2006. Not an actual OG but very close. Heck, I used to use Typepad for chrissakes. That’s seriously old school. And some of (most of) my posts since that time have been about employee engagement. I know this because every time I’m up to write on Fistful of Talent I panic because I may not be able to find something new to talk about, so I review my history. It’s not easy – I’ve written for 13 years on my own site, 12 or so here, and on HRExaminer. That’s a lot of content. The truth is there isn’t too much that is new from the past 13 years, so finding something new to bring to the table is a real problem.

And I think that is because we still can’t get it through our heads that employee engagement can’t be solved with the approaches we’ve been taking for the last 15 years or so.

But here’s my new idea: We need to look at solving the engagement problem in the same way we would look at solving the obesity problem.

Losing weight the engagement way.

We have an obesity problem. Currently, in the US, 39.8% of adults aged 20 and older are considered obese (BMI of over 30kg/m2). That’s a lot of people. The American obesity epidemic is laid at the feet of too many calories in and too few out. Duh. We have more high carb/fat choices than ever, we move less, and we have computers. The trifecta of bad actors. And, whenever there is a crisis like this there is a ton of information on how to fix it– Atkins, keto, grapefruit, ginkgo biloba, the list goes on. Don’t forget cool sculpting (to be fair that’s not really a health thing, that’s just changing the perception of reality, right?). There are a huge number of opinions, facts, alternative facts, and lies associated with helping people get healthy. If any of those worked, we wouldn’t have the problem.

Now think about employee engagement. We have an epidemic in engagement – over 60% of employees are NOT engaged! It’s an even worse problem than obesity. And, as you would expect, there are as many fads, ads, cads, and charlatans hawking their solution to low engagement. Big problems bring a big number of solutions.

I think the juxtaposition is looking pretty good.

But here’s the problem. We are looking at both of these issues through the lens of the “statistics.” But we forget that statistics describe the “population,” not the individual. We can’t treat the population – only the individual. With obesity, we know that each person has a specific issue related to their obesity. For some it is exercise. For others, it is food choices. Others have to deal with health issues and the problem isn’t behavioral. No doctor outside of Dr.Oz would treat all obese patients the exact same way. No one would say EVERYONE should avoid carbs. Some people can’t do that.

In other words, the only way to change the general statistics is to affect the individual.

Say that out loud.

Now say that about engagement.

We know the statistics on engagement. They describe the population, not the individual.

Yet we continue to put technology solutions in place that almost force managers and others to treat the engagement problem as if everyone is disengaged for the same reason. The fact is, we can’t solve the engagement issues in our companies by spreading engagement solutions like peanut butter over each person equally.

We NEED to have managers apply engagement practices individually.

To fix engagement we need to move away from trying to influence the population and focus on influencing the individual. We need to stop the 3 Musketeers engagement practices of “One solution for all, and all in for the one solution.”

We need to treat engagement like getting healthy.

Each person needs a different intervention.

Stop using your engagement tools to treat the whole. Train managers to treat the individual.