Organizations will continue to struggle with finding and keeping people and creating the workplace conditions necessary to drive productivity despite the recent COVID slow-down. Organizations spend billions of dollars on employee attraction, retention, and development in an effort to manage, yet employees remain disengaged with their roles and disenfranchised from their companies.

Organizations are spending more to bring people in to do the necessary work, yet people are not staying. One in three American workers report they are chronically stressed on the job and mainstream press reports that more than half of US workers are looking for new jobs.

Employee engagement is stuck as the latest management panacea du jour. Some act as if it is the latest holy grail of management.

Dependence on ill-defined engagement is a serious mistake. Engagement is a promise to do something. Employee engagement connotes a promise by the employee—a pledge that they will do what they say they can do. Hear me, I am not arguing against employee engagement but alternatively arguing that companies and managers need to recognize engagement as a shared relationship wherein employers also own their promise to do what they say they will do.

Perhaps the reason employee engagement initiatives have been stagnant or diminishing is because they remain one-sided. The employee has owned the responsibility for engagement and has been punished for its absence. Companies throw money at erroneous engagement solutions that simply have not worked.

One can only go so far to blame the employee for a company’s faults before finally looking at the organization itself. Organizations need to fulfill their promise just as they expect employees to fulfill theirs. If the objective is to increase satisfaction and productivity, it takes two — the employer and employee.