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      So, how does your organization stack up with these five engagement factors? Do you have the fundamental factors strongly in place? If you were to bring one of these five factors more fully to your organization, which would it be? This could engage you for a number of years.

1. “Engaged Employees Help Boost the Bottom Line,” WASHINGTON D.C., SHRM CONFERENCE, 27 JUNE 2006

2. “Employee Engagement A Review of Current Research and Its Implications”, Conference Board of Canada, 2006.

3. Employee Retention Strategies for Reducing Employee Turnover Costs, The Rainmaker Group website.

4. Beyond Loyalty: The Business of Engaged Employees, Performance Connection International website.

5. Leading for Strategic Engagement: Ten Actions You Can Take To Increase Strategic Engagement, Performance Connections International.

6. “How to Maximize Employee Engagement”,, 12/18/2007.

7. Finding Keepers: The Monster Guide to Hiring and Holding the World’s Best Employees. Steve Pogorzelski and Jesse Harriott, Ph.D. with Doug Hardy, The McGraw Hill Company, New York, 2008.

8. “Defining Employee Engagement,”

9. Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big, Bo Burlingham, Portfolio, Penguin Group, 2005.

10. The Tipping Point. Malcolm Gladwell, Little Brown and Company, New York, 2000.

About the Author
Caela Farren, Ph.D., is President of MasteryWorks, Inc. in Falls Church, VA. She has been a consultant, entrepreneur, and educator for over 30 years, Caela has worked with hundreds of thousands of people worldwide to get them on their mastery path. Caela’s practice and company builds strong links between changing trends in industries, changing strategies of organizations and the talents and aspirations of individuals. People who work with her company discover their passion, their mastery path, and bring renewed contribution and high performance to their organizations.

Caela is known internationally for her expertise in developing talent management products and services. Her solutions are user-friendly systems that serve the needs of both organizations and individuals. She is frequently quoted in the media regarding her thoughts and advice on changing careers and work patterns in the nation. Hundreds of organizations have implemented talent management solutions from MasteryWorks, Inc. — consulting, workshops, assessment instruments and web-based talent management portals.
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Five Critical Conditions for Employee Engagement
by Caela Farren, Ph.D., MasteryWorks, Inc.
     Is “engagement” one of the new buzz words in your organization? Do you think managers and employees really understand what engagement is all about? Why it’s so critically important? How would you answer these questions?
  • What most inspired you at work?
  • What was your most productive work?
  • When did you learn the most at work?
  • What made you the most proud about your work?
  • When did you know that your work made a difference for others?

     If you were able to identify any of these events, you probably remember a heightened sense of purpose and passion. You were absorbed in a focused emotional and intellectual state by thinking, innovating, creating, problem solving, hypothesizing, testing, reflecting, or questioning, etc. You realized a renewed sense of enthusiasm, passion, caring, zeal, commitment, dedication, etc. If you were willing to “go the extra mile” and use your discretionary time to achieve and learn, then you have indeed experienced engagement.

    Traditionally, the notion of engagement in the workplace defined the commitment employees expected from their employers in return for their loyalty and longevity. Courts enforce an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing in exchange for an employee’s loyalty. The Conference Board of Canada describes employee engagement as: “a heightened emotional connection that an employee feels for his or her organization that influences him or her to exert greater discretionary effort to his or her work.”[2]

     We believe there is a hierarchy of five critical elements or conditions forming the platform for employee/employer engagement. They are:

  • Missions that inspire, attract and give meaning to the sacrifices of work;
  • Leadership in the industry and core technologies;
  • Work that is challenging, meaningful and provides career opportunities;
  • Social responsibility and philanthropy for employees and communities; and
  • Great Managers, who build strong partnerships with their employees, supporting their career and life needs.

     Engagement and retention are two sides of the same coin. We stay where we’re emotionally involved and committed. We commit when we’re inspired to achieve. We’re loyal when we feel respected, supported by our managers and colleagues, and rewarded by our leaders. We work harder and learn more when we are challenged and feel that we are an important part of the organization. When the five factors above are missing, we’re outta there!
A Personal Story of the Waning of Engagement
in Organization Cultures

   Many people have experienced increasing attrition of engagement and commitment over the past 20 years. Relationships between employers and employees have succumbed to bottom line bullies in many for-profit organizations. My colleague and CEO Adviser, Dr. Robert Mintz, of Short Hills, NJ, describes quite eloquently his own experience of the gradual melting of engagement for himself and others in the workplace:

As a recovering HR person, I have felt and experienced “engagement” and watched as it was methodically stripped out of company cultures. “Being engaged” USED to mean: my values were in synch with this organization; I knew why the organization existed and what it wanted to be . . . and I supported that larger picture . . . it’s congruent with my own goals and wishes; I see top people walking their talk . . . they make decisions that are values-based and support the long term viability of the enterprise. They don’t just drive share price.

Starting in the 80’s, we systematically outplaced and early-retired the keepers of our cultures; the mentors and story tellers who taught us newbies how to get ahead and how to do it honorably. As the various “loyalty/employment contracts” were broken it became clear that engagement shifted from feeling fully involved in my work . . . to doing whatever it took to keep a job that provided a means to have a life after work. Engagement used to mean going the extra mile for the good of the other; now I will do what is expected, so long as I am sufficiently compensated.

I experienced systemic disengagement as each of my employers focused on cost reduction. The message was clear. We are all expendable . . . and worse, any horrible counter-cultural behavior was tolerated and even rewarded, as long as “the numbers” were made.

Why Is Engagement So Important?
    Performance, pride, innovation and productivity rise when we are engaged and committed. The need for creativity, thinking, innovation, entrepreneurship has never been greater. Committed people are changing the landscape of the world.

     Discretionary effort by employees comes from hunger to achieve the mission, great managers and leadership, and challenging and autonomous work. Employees go the extra mile when there is a culture rewarding commitment.

     Bottom Line Impact - Towers Perrin surveyed over 600,000 workers worldwide over a twelve-month period using engagement survey technology. Their research revealed a dramatic relationship between high engagement scores and profitability. According to ISR Global Research Director, Patrick Kulesa, “The data reaffirms the remarkable ability of an engaged workforce to impact a company’s bottom line.”[1]

     Retention – Worker shortages and hiring costs continue to plague U.S. businesses to the tune of $200 billion annually spent for recruiting and replacing employees. An astounding 70% of workers reportedly are uncommitted and poised for better job opportunities according to the authors of “Finding Keepers.”[7] Today our workers are free agents. They stay if they feel proud of the organization, their mission, and the knowledge of their leaders. They will remain if the values and goals of the organization mirror their own beliefs. They stay if they have great managers who address their career and life needs and goals.

Five Critical Conditions for Engagement
    We have witnessed increasing erosion of loyalty and engagement in the past twenty years. To help us get back on track, there are some fundamental building blocks to ensure that people will flock to organizations rather than flee from them.
1) Inspiring Purpose or Mission That Gives Meaning and Relevance for the Present and Future
Does your organization mission inspire you? Move you to greatness? Make you feel like you make a difference to the organization and its customers? Does it inspire you to “go the extra mile?

People are drawn to greatness! We want to win! We want to contribute! We want to be inspired! We want to know what counts for extraordinary performance. We want to feel alive and passionate. We hunger for meaning and making a difference. Organizations with strong and relevant missions are magnets that draw people with similar goals, values and determination to take consistent action in a desired direction.

The best example of a clear and inspiring mission was voiced by an older man sweeping the floor at Cape Canaveral days before launching one of the early Apollo missions. My friend asked him what he was doing. Without hesitation he said, “I’m getting a man to the moon.” He was working for NASA.

Employees have become consummate consumers. They study websites, interview other employees, listen and watch their leaders, colleagues and managers. They know quality and truth when they see it. They know the difference between buzz and bluster. If there is no clear, inspiring, bonding or meaningful mission, people will not stay engaged. They will leave.

Genentech is one of the world’s leading biotechnology companies. It embodies all five of these conditions. The fact that it has won almost every coveted award in the scientific, business and philanthropic communities attests to its ability to attract and retain the very best.

  • using human genetic information to discover, develop, manufacture and commercialize biotherapeutics that address significant unmet medical needs. We commit ourselves to high standards of integrity in contributing to the best interests of patients, the medical profession, our employees and our communities, and to seeking significant returns to our stockholders based on the continual pursuit of scientific and operational excellence.
  • Genentech’s public growth strategy through 2010 is also visible to the public and known to all employees. This helps the company stay focused on its top priorities and makes Genentech's plans transparent to investors and others…Genentech website.

Patagonia also has an inspiring mission: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” Patagonia Website

The critical importance of articulating, demonstrating and imbuing the company with a higher purpose is the first imperative Bo Burlingham cites in his thoughtful book, Small Giants: Companies that Choose to be Great Instead of Big. “What sets these small giants apart is the extent to which the high purpose is woven into the fabric of the business.” Bo Burlingham, Portfolio, Penguin Group, New York, 2005[9]

2) Leadership in the Industry and Core Technologies
Great people want to work and learn from great people. We sometimes forget that leadership in core technologies and related industries may be the most attractive HR element we possess. Reputations of companies are built on the reputations of people. In our confusion between leadership and management, we sometimes forget that there really is a difference and the difference is not positional. Leaders have vision and passion. They see what’s possible in the future. They care about their mission. In the process they make a huge difference in the fabric of life as well as the bottom line. It’s hard to attract great people in the absence of real leadership. Great talent and idealism are simply incompatible without great leadership.

It’s not surprising that many of the “best” companies are still led by their founders – leaders with vision and know-how, respected by their colleagues, and copied by their competitors. They’ve invented missions and strategies out of their own vision and passion. They “walk their talk.” They are acknowledged leaders in their industry, pioneers or innovators in new technology and invest heavily in R&D, creating new products or solutions from existing knowledge sets. They see new possibilities for solving existing problems or better ways to do so.

was awarded the James D. Watson Annual Helix Award for excellence in the biotechnology industry at the BIO 2006 International Conference. The award recognizes biotechnology companies that have distinguished themselves by setting a singular standard of corporate leadership as reflected in performance in three distinctive areas: scientific innovation, company growth and corporate citizenship.

Genentech’s leaders are well known in the industry. Arthur Levinson, CEO, was named to America’s Most Noteworthy CEO’s List in 2007. Susan Desmond-Hellmann, President of Product Development was named to FORTUNE Magazine's List of the 50 Most Powerful Women and the Wall Street Journal’s “50 Women to Watch” in 2006. Several Vice Presidents and Research Fellows have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

Take a very close at the leadership position of your own organization. Does it make you proud? Does it attract the best and the brightest? Do you have acknowledged leaders in the industry? How many awards has your organization received for outstanding contributions, inventions, innovations, breakthroughs, patents, cost-effective and socially relevant solutions for the needs and problems you’re there to address? How does the R&D budget compare to the marketing budget? How many distinguished professional awards have gone to the leaders in your organization? Do you have a clear strategy to assure that you attract those kinds of people?

3) Challenging and Meaningful Work with Growing Career Opportunities
Every list of drivers for engagement and retention include the importance of challenging and meaningful work with growing career opportunities. It’s normally one of the top three conditions cited by employees for staying or leaving. Both GenYs and Gen Xrs talk about this as a condition for work. Work must be challenging and meaningful to engage the minds, produce creativity, foster inventiveness and instill passion. Autonomy, creativity, responsibility and entrepreneurship are critical variables of challenging work.

Meaningful Work
Patient’s profiles included in Genentech’s website allow employees to see the results and value of their work.
  Genentech - “Everything we do at Genentech — from discovery research and clinical development to manufacturing and marketing — is motivated by a desire to make a difference in the lives of patients. Because as a company we focus our efforts on unmet medical needs, often serious or life-threatening illnesses, we feel a particular sense of urgency and purpose. This sense of mission permeates the company and informs every department and every major decision”. And, following that, we publish brief patient profiles resulting from breakthroughs in Genentech’s biotech solutions. See
Career Opportunities
  EchoStar - We seek individuals who can bring energy and a unique perspective to our goals and vision. We challenge the predetermined career path found in traditional companies. Here, you can move faster, change your role often, and shape your career in limitless ways. There is nothing static about our organization, and we encourage and expect constant growth and development in our employees…. EchoStar – Satellite Communications website
4) Stance for Social Responsibility and Philanthropy
Organizations that demonstrate social responsibility care deeply about their employees as well as their communities – local and global.

Taking Care of Employees
Organizations have a vast array of policies and practices that respond to employees’ cares and concerns. This can include flexible work hours, telecommuting policies, stock ownership programs, work/life balance programs, family leave, day-care centers, medical insurance, etc. Job focus and discretionary effort are reduced when employees are stressed or worried about family or health issues.
  Jet Blue - David Neeleman, the CEO and founder of JetBlue, developed his business philosophy working in the slums of Brazil. He has developed the airline based on the principles of equity in service (no first class, more legroom for people in the back of the plane), same services for all, no special parking place. Neeleman believes in taking care of his employees as well as customers. Neeleman also seeks to create opportunities for JetBlue employees to support each other. He set up a crisis fund for JetBlue employees that goes beyond standard corporate health benefits. Every worker can donate voluntarily from their paycheck to the JetBlue Crewmember Crisis Fund. “Employees know they're coming to a great job where they get full benefits,” Neeleman says. “And if something terrible happens to them, the other employees will help them out. [That contributes to doing] their best work. ...” JetBlue website
Bo Burlingham claims that intimacy – really knowing the people that work for and with you – is critical. He describes intimacy as a “relationship so clear employees never doubt that the company, its leaders, and other people they work with care about them personally and will stand by them through thick and thin, as long as they hold up their part of the bargain.”[9]

Malcolm Gladwell, in his research for The Tipping Point, suggests such personal, social relationships start to shift when an organization exceeds 150 people.[10]

Community Responsibility
U.S. News & World Report and Harvard University’s Center for Public Leadership reviewed the social impact of an organization as one of the criteria in choosing “ America’s Best Leaders”, November, 2007.
  Anchor Brewing - The founder pointed out, “We’ve tried to do business and be a good neighbor…We’ve adopted a middle school and the little city library branch that’s near the brewery. We’ve sponsored a chamber music group. We sponsored some young men who set out to break the record for bicycling across the U.S. We sponsor a rowing team on the bay. But all of this is done quietly and without blowing our horn.”[9]
Other companies noted for leadership positions in global environmental issues:
  Patagonia, a $275 million leader in the sports wear apparel and equipment business. It is known worldwide for its culture and commitment to creating an environmentally sound planet. Patagonia website

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, focusing on our Company Purpose and Principles in business operations, allocates 5% of its pre-tax earnings to social and environmental causes. All four generations in the workplace are becoming more and more conscious of the need for corporate stewardship. “We are motivated to achieve success because the more profitable we are, the more good we can do in the world.” Green Mountain Coffee Roasters website
5) Great Managers Attract, Support, and Develop Great People
Managers are the single most important element for high engagement and low turnover. Great managers attract great people. We can all point to the positive impact of great managers in our lives, both personally and professionally. They match people to positions bringing them to future success. Research shows “the direct relationship with a manager is the strongest of all drivers of engagement.” 6 Monster’s latest book, Finding Keepers, points out that three quarters of job seekers are looking for “a good manager or boss” while only a little over ten percent of the firms surveyed tied managers’ compensation to employee retention.”[7]

In our Retention Risk™ Assessment , we ask managers to answer 15 questions to see if any of their employees are at risk of leaving the organization. Exit interviews and research reveals that people leave organization for four major reasons:
  • Lack of partnership or trust with managers - managers don’t know their employees;
  • Work/Life integration issues – managers don’t support their employees’ broader work and life interests;
  • Lack of “career fit” – important values, interests, skills don’t fit the job or organization; and
  • Lack of career opportunities – managers don’t know short and long-term goals or align work with long-term goals of organization and individual.
Managers should immediately recognize that these conditions are critical for employee engagement. Lack of knowledge of their employees needs to be turned into strong, respectful partnerships.


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