(From MoneyWatch) -- The management fad of the millennium is employee "engagement." Gallup has done a remarkable job of marketing it as the one metric for improving everything from employee retention to business performance. But does it work? Not necessarily.
Sure, every executive and business leader wants employees to care about their jobs and the success of their company. That's a no-brainer. But accurately measuring employee engagement, developing the right strategies to improve it, implementing them, and not screwing up anything else in the process is far easier said than done.
More importantly, at least one credible expert and a human capital analytics consultancy firm say the cause-and-effect relationship between employee engagement and business results isn't compelling, primarily because their drivers are not necessarily the same. And I happen to agree.
If the results are questionable, then why have so many companies jumped on the employee engagement bandwagon? Like so many things nowadays, executives do it because it's popular, it sounds good and it sounds easy. Hire Gallup, have them do a survey, make a few tweaks and -- voila! -- instant engagement.
The truth is that companies do half-baked stuff like that all the time. I've seen it over and over. Half the time it backfires because they're not measuring the right factors, they don't make the right changes, or they fix one thing and screw up another.
Now, I know employee engagement is a phrase with a deeper meaning, but whenever I hear it, I can't help but relate it to domesticated animals. You engage a dog by getting it to do tricks in the hope of getting a treat. You engage a cat with a piece of string or, if you really want to go high-tech, a laser pointer.
I know it's a condescending analogy, but when you lump individuals into masses to be measured with tools and manipulated into doing what you want them to do, what can I say? It seems to fit. Maybe it works with certain employees. Maybe not. But there's one thing I do know: There are better ways to motivate employees and improve business performance.