Incentra Insights

Are You Engaging Your Whole Employee?

Posted by David Chittock on Feb 21, 2015 12:38:00 PM

The Gap Between Engagement and Employee Engagement


In a 2015 Harvard Business Review article, the author makes the following surprising statement, “Companies spend over $720 million each year on employee engagement, and that’s projected to rise to over $1.5 billion. And yet, employee engagement is at record lows — 13% according to perennial engagement survey leader Gallup.  Either we’re spending in the wrong places or something is seriously flawed in our engagement programs.”  It seems, something definitely is not working.


The Wrong Engagement Model?


The author goes on to make the case that companies may be using the entirely wrong engagement model.  Most employee engagement models are centered around the work experience and not on the employees. This focus may indeed be the source of the problem. We just might be missing the most important aspects of our employees’ lives – their experiences outside of the workplace. In other words, we’re ignoring a huge portion of our employees’ life experiences.

Why is This So Important?


According to the HBR article, “When we only try to understand and affect what happens at work, we ignore the most basic tenet of person-organization fit: employees bring their whole selves to work. What happens after the workday may be just as important as what happens during it.” As a result of this theory, research was performed using what the author calls, the “Whole Self Model” to find out whether many of the root causes of engagement are actually found outside the workplace. The answer was a resounding “yes.”

Components of the Whole Self Model


The research using the Whole Self Model identified four major elements of the self to be addressed when designing an employee engagement plan.  These components are:

  • Workplace:  What workplace factors impact the employees’ performance and what are their preferences as to an optimum workplace environment?

  • Relationships: What personal and workplace relationships most affect a worker’s performance both inside and outside of work?

  • Internal self: what is the value systems that influences an employee’s behaviors, decisions, and action both within and outside of the workplace?

  • External self: How do employees spend their time and energy outside of the workplace?

Implications for Employee Engagement


If this theory holds true, it just may have an immense impact on the way HR designs its employee engagement programs.  What this means is that HR managers are going to have to address the “whole person” when considering the factors that impact employee engagement.  They are going to have to broaden the scope of their inquiry into the drivers and inhibitors of employee engagement both within and outside of the workplace environment.  This may take some skilled and tactful efforts on the part of HR as many workers tend to keep their private lives and work lives separate.  But it may not be as difficult as it might appear.


Get to Know Your Employees


Using a holistic approach to employee engagement may be as simple as taking the time to really get to know your employees.  If you’re able to create an environment of trust and mutual respect, you will have no problem finding out what your employees really care about, what concerns and fears they have, and what brings them the most joy and satisfaction.  You’ll be able to learn what kind of relationships are most important to them and what activities they enjoy the most when not at work.  You’ll gain insights into how they like to work; collaboratively or independently. And how they like to be recognized for going above and beyond.


Simple Ways to Make this Happen


There are a number of straightforward approaches you can use to gain this knowledge. Artfully written simple surveys can provide you a wealth of information about your employees’ likes, dislikes, and preferences.  Group discussions are also a valuable tool for getting your employees to open up about their lives outside the workplace and share insights and issues with their peers.  Social media is another avenue for broadening your understanding of the elements that impact your employees’ lives.  Having an internal web page where employees can post family and personal accomplishments and announcements will deepen your insights into what really makes your employees tick

A Wealth of Good Will


Whichever means you use, getting to know your employees as “whole persons” will pay off a hundred fold.  The very fact of asking your employees these kind of questions show you actually care about them as a whole person, not just a worker.  This is the kind of good will money can’t buy! 


Categories: Employee Engagement