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How to break the cycle of poor industrial relations

The Case for Employee Engagement

Sometimes it is easier to define something by describing its opposite. Perhaps that applies to Employee Engagement too. Maybe it is easier to depict employee disengagement.

And of course, when describing anything, the old adage is true; "a picture is worth a thousand words." I was reminded of that this week when I had reason to look at one of the cartoons from my book, “Lean Organisations Need FAT People.”   

Employee Disengagement

Ironically, although the picture does a wonderful job of portraying employee disengagement and its consequences, it is far from fiction. It portrays something that I was told once really happened!

This is the kind of situation that can actually happen when people are over-regulated or not valued enough to be allowed to use their own discretion. And that, I am convinced, is the root cause of the lack of employee engagement, and even the active employee disengagement, that is so rife today. You might not have a production line like this, but I am sure that, if you opened your eyes, you could identify any number of examples of employee disengagement that are costing you or your organisation a bundle.   

And it is not just money either. You only have to think of all the people who failed to take action that could have saved the life of Daniel Pelka: a four year old boy beaten and starved to death by his own mother and her partner. Or the 11 primary care trusts in the UK that have been placed under special measures because of sub-standard performance. I bet there is no-one in either of those cases who does not want to a good job. Yet the results are manifestly below what they likely aspire to. Clearly it is a system that is letting them – and us – down.

So, stop thinking about the effort to create employee engagement and whether it is justifiable and affordable. Look around you and see what signs of employee disengagement you can identify. Then think about their consequences and the cost of these. Now ask yourself if you can really afford not to do more to engage your people. I think - in fact I can guarantee - you will find it is a no-brainer.

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