CommScrum: Time to Say Good Night to “Employee Engagement”?

This week, I join my three collaborators from CommScrum in a robust discussion about the viability of “employee engagement”.

The discussion starts like this:

To be sure, the intentions behind the “employee engagement” movement of recent years were more-or-less honorable, to create working environments where employee participation was appreciated, and to ensure organizations used language that didn’t discourage such participation out of hand.

But as time went on, a prevailing definition for “employee engagement” came to indicate “the discretionary effort contributed by employees,” (as if there was such a thing as “non-discretionary effort” in organizations that benefit neither from slavery nor sleepwalking). Moreover, many in the internal communication industry leapt in as offering “employee engagement solutions” that could help generate extra-special-discretionary effort well beyond that warranted by what their clients were willing to reciprocate with.

The discussion continues in full at:

Is More “Top-Down Inspiration” Really the Answer for Organizational Recovery?

Challenging the conventional wisdom that the answer for reviving organizations is a more-of-the-same focus on “employee engagement” and “top-down inspirational leadership” is the purpose of this piece, written as a reply to industry association IABC’s recent introduction to its Communication World magazine.  The reply, which can be found on Communitelligence at , instead offers tangible approaches where strategic internal communication can make real differences without invoking the need for inspirational interventions.

Enterprise Re-Engagement: Will Corporates Get It?

My latest posting on Communitelligence and the Employee Engagement Network raises the issue of why corporations, while needing to engage their full range of social, political and environmental stakeholders, could be well served to place employees at the heart of their broader engagement strategies.

Such an approach is not without risks.  Expecting employees to fight corporate battles in the public and political sphere is seen by some as a breach of labor-management etiquette, and also will require a new framework of trust to be generated between employee and employer following the shocks of the last few years.

However, employees and employers may be faced with little choice.  Both are more vulnerable to market shocks and competitive pressures—leaving relationships and reputation as the thin shield that affords them any protection whatsoever.  Whether corporations can join together their collective thinking about stakeholder engagement—or whether the current thinking of employee engagement as a sort of free lunch for employers ends up prevailing—is likely to have a decisive impact in the next few years.

The full posting is available at Communitelligence at:

Praise from David Zinger, Employee Engagement Network Leader

My efforts to raise the debate on employee engagement issues was commended today by David Zinger, who heads up the 2000-member global Employee Engagement Network:

“I continue to appreciate your thinking and writing on the various facets of engagement and how we need to rethink or re-engage with the multiple facets of engagement to keep pace with external and internal organizational changes.

Thank you for being such a strong supporter and advocate of the network and your contributions seem to be returned by how much interaction and you get on your posts and forums.”

The Employee Engagement Network can be found at

From “Employee Engagement” to “Enterprise Re-Engagement”

Challenging the often “one-size-fits-all” mentality pervasive in the discussion about engagement in the workplace, I’ve posted an alternative approach to the Employee Engagement Network called “Enterprise Re-Engagement”.

Enterprise Re-Engagement challenges organizations to pursue a meaningful, two-way approach to engagement that openly acknowledges changes in organizations’ economic and employment environments, targets approaches that are appropriate to the growing number of contingent workers as well as to ‘permanent’ employees, and seeks to stimulate creative friction and innovation as well as satisfaction and loyalty.

The piece can be found at the Employee Engagement Network at:

CommScrum Rugby-Tackles “Internal Communication”

Challenging the very viability of what’s currently known as “internal communication” was the focus of my recent posting to  CommScrum—a cooperative blog dedicated to “Full Contact Internal Comms.”

The Commscrummers: UK-based Dan Gray and Kevin Keohane, Netherlands-based Lindsay Uittenbogaard, and me, took a whack at the inward-facing focus of internal comms to date. We questioned its viability in the face of the ongoing convergence of communication disciplines and, equally, the emerging importance of employees as an externally-facing communication channel.

Commscrum publishes at least twice monthly—and can be found (with the usual robust set of comments, replies and retorts) at:

Questioning Employee Engagement–Some Things to Think About

Building on my “four forms of employee engagement” model, I’ve published another piece that again challenges the conventional wisdom about employee engagement, while providing some practical questions for practitioners to consider before considering engagement efforts in the current climate.

This piece, ‘Questioning ‘Engagement–Things to Think About’, has been published on the Employee Engagement Network and can be found at:

“Four Forms” of Engagement Model Published by Leading Employee Engagement Personality

My innovative “Four Forms” model of Employee Engagement, which identified four distinct types of employee-employer relationship:

  • The engagement of the “rifle”—battle: active opposition
  • The engagement of the “mat”—wrestling: active disagreement, but within a productive context
  • The engagement of the “gearshift”-mechanical: productivity without resistance
  • The engagement of the “ring”-mutual, heartfelt, emotional commitment
  • was recognized recently by one of the engagement movement’s leading practitioners, David Zinger.

    Zinger has posted a full article on the four forms on his own blog last month, and led off the piece with the following exchange between us:

    “Mike Klein is an original think around employee engagement. He joined the Employee Engagement Network recently and I asked him about his nonlinear view of employee engagement and employee engagement seen as a moral virtue. He wrote a comment on my network page that really got me thinking:

    Engagement is non-linear: The short answer regarding my non-linear view of engagement: I think the idea that the path between employee hostility and helpfulness as a straight line called “engagement” is total rubbish.

    Rather, I see “engagement” as a willingness to connect through some sort of relationship, which can either be hostile or helpful, passive or active, possessive or bereft of long-term commitment, and solitary or collective.

    As for my background–while I have more than 10 years of internal communication experience, mainly in Europe, I managed political campaigns in the US for 10 years as well, where I saw other patterns and models of engagement emerge around candidates and issues. That background gives me some perspective around the whole “engagement as moral virtue” piece–for it is impossible for anyone actively in a relationship to be disengaged, whether they are hostile, helpful or hopeless.

    Ultimately, I think this issue has been horribly mispositioned in the communications and management press, and that professionals need access to new models and vocabularies that don’t treat engagement solely as an employee issue, and solely as a matter of right and wrong.

    This whetted my appetite to learn more from Mike about employee engagement or engagement and I received his approval to reprint the blog post below. I have made a few slight changes to make it easier to follow but the post is directly from Mike.  This is not a short blog read but I believe your will gain much if you focus on the engaging metaphors that Mike presents.”

    The full posting can be found at: