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Featured image for post: Engagement Studies Should Help Reduce Turnover and Increase Retention. Have Yours?

Engagement Studies Should Help Reduce Turnover and Increase Retention. Have Yours?

Twenty years ago, I was invited to deliver the keynote address at a recruitment and retention conference in Las Vegas. I spoke with the event organizers to fully understand their objectives and then crafted the deliverables for my presentation entitled “The Differing Preferences, Expectations, and Intents of an Emerging Workforce.”


As it came time for the conference, I dined with conference leaders, further discussed the agenda, and confirmed our 8:45 a.m. sound check. I sat in my chair as the conference began and half listened to the association president deliver announcements and introduce me to five hundred attendees. As my anticipatory anxiety caught me thinking about how I would start the presentation, I concurrently reviewed the attendee handouts. The tab for my presentation was stamped EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT.


“And now, please join me in welcoming Dr. Mahan.”


I walked up to the stage, shook hands with the conference leader, fumbled with the podium and addressed the crowd. I usually began with humor or some mildly self-deprecating comment, but my feelings were conflicted and I hardly knew how to start. Following what seemed to be too long a pause, I looked to the audience and requested that they take out their pens and open their manuals to the “Employee Engagement” tab in their conference binders.


I asked them to draw a heavy line across the last E in EMPLOYEE and to insert an R at the end. I told them I was not going to talk about employee engagement . . . I was going to talk about EmployER Engagement.


As organizational-behavior-management professionals, it is relatively common for business executives to tell us of the employee engagement strategies they have put in place. We hear their ideas about casual dress days, wine parties, cappuccino machines, new compensation plans, flexible schedules and work-from-home days, wellness apps, training, stock purchase plans and bring-your-dog-to-work days. We hear about golf putting contests in the hallways, concierge services and massage schedules. We also hear about their employee engagement surveys.


Being relatively decent listeners and a bit smart-alecky, we often inquire:

  • Are employees staying longer?
  • Are people lining up to come to work for you?
  • Are manageable human-capital expenses going down?
  • Are profits up?
  • Is organizational productivity increasing?


Our questions prompt what appears to be thoughtfulness, but often these executives don’t know or can’t answer our inquiry. Sometimes they take on the countenance of Eeyore—the friendly but depressed donkey in Winnie the Pooh stories. They know their engagement scores are flat or failing. They are also just plain tired of it all, thinking and feeling helpless to resolve it. Sometimes they just wish they could outsource employees to a vendor, perhaps a staffing company, perhaps overseas.


What they need to do is successfully execute a growth and productivity strategy through employee-centric needs assesment, aligned solutions, communication and evaluation measures. These executives need to recognize the necessity of understanding the real reasons why people came to their organization, why they stay and why they would or would not work for the organization again. When leaders do this they are able to responsibly intervene, reduce human capital expenses and increase productivity.


EmployER Engagement was written for organizational leaders who are willing to innovate their people strategies in order to stay ahead of their competition, and for organizations who are tired of paying out too much for bad results from conventional employment relationship practices.

Available now, EmployER Engagement: The Fresh and Dissenting Voice on the Employment Relationship is likely to provoke mixed emotional reactions, rational and irrational debates, and logical agreement. For some this research-based narrative will validate current thinking. For others, it may trigger contentious reactions.

In total, EmployER Engagement provides the rationale and proven techniques to shift to a financially and relationally balanced leadership perspective, and the tactics necessary to become a preferred employer.