It’s easy to get a quick burst from a strong cup of coffee or an energy drink. And then there’s the inevitable crash. The better, tougher, way to be a more energetic person is to work on it over time, with nutrition, exercise and rest, which lead to long-term energy and health.
According to a recent piece in the Harvard Business Review, it works the same way with employee engagement. It’s easy, exciting, and mostly useless, to get a short burst in productivity and employee satisfaction through an incentive. But long-term success in employee engagement comes from taking the extended view in the recognition field and investing for the long term as well.
“Why the Millions We Spend on Employee Engagement Buy Us So Little” is the provocative title of Jacob Morgan’s study, and he’s played the long game in doing extensive research, interviewing 150 psychologists, economists and business leaders throughout the globe. His hypothesis is that spending countless dollars on employee engagement efforts is not money well spent if you’re focused on the short term. When an employee perk is introduced, he writes, it has the same effect as an adrenaline shot. Employee satisfaction jumps up, briefly, then settles back down just as quickly, as employees subconsciously wait for the next incentive.
Taking a long look at the workplace is well-traveled territory for Morgan, who is the author of three books on organizations, employment and employees. He has an entire website (www.thefutureorganization.com) dedicated to the topic.
In his data analysis, Morgan finds that companies focused on long-term employee engagement have the most long-term success. One example he cites is Adobe, which employs an executive vice president dedicated to customer and employee experience, and has made a significant investment in programs that facilitate real-time employee feedback. Other examples cited in Morgan’s study include offices with multiple workplace floor plans to accommodate differing work styles and preferences. One company, Airbnb, constantly experiments with differing office layouts and floor plans, and employees are given a budget to design and build their own conference spaces.
Short-term efforts are easy and enjoyable, but the companies with the most success in the employee engagement realm are playing the long game.