I read an article last week about forcing the issue of employee engagement, as if someone could force that upon an employee. I’m not even going to link to the article, as I wouldn’t share such misinformation. But I am going to blog about it for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is to remind everyone that you have to be careful about what you read on the Internet and that you can’t believe everything you read.

Seriously, I had to reread the post a few times to be sure the author was serious. Based on his response to comments (with similar disbelief to mine), I assure you, he was. OK, sure, organizations can strive for 100% employee engagement, but it is virtually impossible. I don’t even know if Zappos has 100% employee engagement. Recent research shows that the percentage of employees, in general, who are engaged is far south of that: Only 10% of employees are engaged. While this is just one study, there are many more that support this issue of disengaged employees.

Regardless, engagement cannot be forced upon employees or mandated, dictated, or declared. An employer cannot say, “You will be engaged!” and make it so. It just doesn’t work that way. Engagement is so much more than that; almost literally, when the stars are aligned, there will be engagement!

Engagement involves a relationship between employee and employer; there’s a give and take from both sides. When conditions are right, employees become engaged.

For a great definition, take a look at one that Bob Hayes mentions in his recent blog about Employee Engagement. Note item #3 under “Employee Engagement Construct,” which states: “Employee engagement suggests absorption, dedication, passion, enthusiasm, focused effort, and energy on the part of the employee.” I have previously written about employee passion and how it drives results. Passion is not something that can be forced upon you. Passion is an emotion; it comes from within you. Each of the items in that definition comes from within you.

Imagine if your manager walked up to you this morning and said, “I don’t think you are an engaged employee. Let me coach you on how to be engaged. You have to be an engaged employee; it’s not an option.”

I assure you: That will not happen any sooner than your boyfriend will fall in love with you because you told him he had to.

Yes, employee engagement is critical. But instead of dictating, employers can create an environment/culture that supports (helps build) and facilitates employee engagement. These suggestions on how to do that come from Jill Donnelly at Customer Service Experts:

  1. Create a work environment that is positive and employee-focused.
  2. Provide ongoing training, development, and opportunities to learn.
  3. Ensure processes are customer-centric and employee-focused.
  4. Develop a relationship with your employees; have frequent interpersonal contact with them.
  5. Guide your team with a vision and set standards that will enable you to offer employees consistent feedback and direction.

As I mentioned in my post, It’s Time to Focus on Employee Experience, I believe the right people with the right tools at the right company with the right culture leads to employee engagement.

What do you think?