Dearly beloved, we’re gathered here to honor a true hero whose potential was cut down by the long knives and long tongues of the indifferent, slcerotic, top-down, hierarchical command-and-control cultures it hoped to transform and save.
Despite overwhelming resistance from well-funded opponents hunkered down in their corner offices and endless meetings in sterile conference rooms, this hero and its champions delivered life-sustaining results*:
- Revenue Growth 150% higher
- Proﬁtability 40% higher
- Productivity 78% higher
For me, it increased sales conversions to 80% from 50%, maintained positive cash-flows and revenue growth while industry prices plummeted faster than today’s prices of oil.
For me, it resulted in new orders tripling and sales doubling six months after I opened an office in Germany. And I spoke only enough German to order off the menu, direct a cabbie to the main train station and apologize for intruding.
For me, it was being the 13th employee of a company that grew to over 700 employees and several hundred million in annual revenues 7 years later.
Thousands of companies have discovered the secret elixir of business success: no it’s not a smartphone ap or free food. It’s creating a culture where everyone can engage, get excited, bring their hearts and minds and share their passion in building something.
Ah, but like a movie star that lived too fast and died too young Employee Engagement lies buried beneath our desks.
Mourners didn’t throw handfuls of dirt on its casket, a closed casket by-the-way for the abuse it suffered.
No, they buried it beneath obfuscating, wonky terms that no one uses but them or contestants in Business Buzzword Bingo, aka Bullshit Bingo.
They buried it beneath endless debates about percentages and definitions of terms. Reminds me of the Ed Meese Commission Report and its members stalking the halls of peep shows and porn theaters trying to find the elusive 'porn.'
"There it is, I saw it - an engaged/disengage/actively disengaged employee!"
Then another person says:
"Well, that's not how I define it!"
And they're off engaged in their own conversation of whether there really is a there there and was that ... engaged/disengage/actively disengaged employee,
"Does their behavior really qualified as engaged/disengage/actively disengaged - did we decide if those terms are accurate - and I'm not really sure, are they really there, assuming there is a there and it's there. Besides, how many of them, if they were there, did you count?"
They buried it beneath surveys that no one reads until it’s too late to do anything anyway.
Newly self-created mavens and experts like the early social media counterparts who whipped up froth but no sales buried it beneath a similar level of empty promises.
They pandered to the masses with promises of overnight success if you’ll only make it a game, let them play foosball and ping-pong and eat bon-bons all day. Free beer on Fridays. (Yeah, that’ll work. Who doesn't get their best work done after a few cold ones? C'mon! Partay!)
They buried it beneath racks of khakis worn once a week - woooo!
Executives and Boards of Directors buried it beneath their compensation packages that paid the execs upwards of 5-6-700 times that of their company’s average salary. That left no money for training or pay raises or even hiring.
Stock buybacks and heavy loads of debt sucked any remaining cash flow from those priorities too.
They buried it beneath endless meetings about employees and never with employees, all to find a solution about this “employee engagement” thing and why “them” employees aren’t engaged like “us.” Kinda like asking why “they” aren’t dancing like us all the time ignoring the fact that you didn’t invite them to your dance.
The same management who created a dysfunctional culture buried it even deeper beneath their same heavy-handed approaches they used in the past - mandates and directives and order and policies - that created the problem. Then they got frustrated when nothing changed and they walked away. "Yeah, that didn't work."
They made it HR's exclusive domain.
They buried it beneath meaningless happy talk slogans and pretty colors and lots of stock photos of happy, smiling employees. No one ever asks “how come you can’t use pictures of your real employees?” Awkward.
So today we say Rest in Peace, Vaya con Dios, to a better place where up is up, down is down.
Despite all this her/his, his/her, will live in on those organizations whose members are courageous enough to listen to each other, fail together, learn together, grow together ... adults, working towards a common cause, their cause in their words and for their reasons to serve their community, often working with neither free donuts nor ping pong tables nor a one day a week when they can wear khakis of a cheaper brand.
* The Corporate Lattice: Achieving High Performance in the Changing World of Work