Employee engagement is critical to organizational success. Many leaders are finally letting that reality sink in. The contingency still lies with the cost. It is tough to calculate ROI on something as abstract as engagement. There is nothing tangible to measure as input, so qualifying the output is tough to do in Excel. This mostly speaks to the erroneous assumption that measurement equals value, therefore inability to measure negates value. This is simply not true.

Of course there are efforts that require a financial investment and those efforts improve employee engagement. Then there are those efforts, that are really no effort at all…at least from the organization’s perspective. Here’s a great example…

culture_engagementMy good friend, Steve Browne, is the Executive Director of HR for Larosa’s, Inc. It is a Cincinnati based company that has various pizzerias located around the tri-state area. Shameless plug – their pizza is pretty damn good! There is an employee at the company’s head office who has an absolute love for cooking. Well, his birthday came up recently. Here is where most organizational leaders would think about the “cost” of doing something for his birthday to try and boost engagement numbers. And that is where this amazing employee turns employee engagement on its head.

Instead of waiting to get something from the company as a means to be engaged, he chose to give something. For HIS birthday, this employee decided to share his love of cooking in a unique way. He commandeered a hallway and made custom omelets for the office…for his birthday. This didn’t cost the company a farthing. How engaged do you think this guy is after being able to express a personal passion in a meaningful way at work? How engaged do you think all the other full bellies in the office are? Not because they got free food, but because they got to share in the experience of watching their colleague enjoy a passion. That is some viral stuff!!

Sure this story sheds some light on the quality of culture at Larosa’s, and is a purposeful hat tip to my buddy Steve and his HR moxy, but the real story is in providing an outlet for passion as a means to boost engagement. Sometimes you need to drop a coin or two to get the ball rolling. Other times, you need to get your stiff, bureaucratic self out of the way so people can make the workplace somewhere that their passion has a voice and an outlet.

Let me tell you a few other things that this amazing guy did.

  1. He didn’t fulfill any performance KPIs
  2. He did something personal on company time
  3. His actions pulled other people off their “jobs”
  4. He didn’t offer a cost-benefit analysis to prove the initiative had merit
  5. He wasn’t certified to conduct an employee engagement workshop

Ok, that last one was cheeky on purpose, but that simple act of service through his personal passion did something for engagement that day. Perpetual opportunities such as this one is what makes engagement…not marginal upticks on the dry measures of the latest survey.

What would you like to say to Steve, Larosa’s, Inc. and this amazing employee about this? Let them hear your support for doing engagement right. Leave your thoughts in the comments!