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Employee engagement is “everything money can’t buy”

Employee engagement is not something I would usually be thinking about on a drive in the country.

Then we visited the beautiful Wolgan Valley west of Sydney and historical Newnes.

Although Newnes is no longer the bustling town it once was – not a town at all now, really – there’s a sign on the road that says:

‘Newnes – Everything money can’t buy’

It was that sign that inspired me to write this post.

Employee engagement is mostly made up of things that money can’t buy.

When someone works for you, you exchange your money for their labour. That’s the basic economics of labour.

There’s nothing about that transaction that imposes a duty on your employee to feel engaged, excited or enthusiastic about their work.

They bring their skills, training and experience to work to produce goods or services you sell for profit. That’s the part of the employee engagement equation money can buy.

Paying people fairly for their labour is basic.

It’s also the easiest thing for competitors to copy.

Doing things that increase employee engagement can certainly cost money, but engagement itself usually can’t be bought.

People want to feel the work they do is making a difference.

Making a difference means different things to different people – and this is where many attempts at employee engagement have run off the rails. Answers to the question ‘How do you know your work is making a difference?’ will include answers as diverse as these:

“I know my company always acts ethically”

“The work we do here helps society”

“I have opportunities to contribute to the direction of the organisation”

“I’m learning new skills that will help my career and that I can pass on to others”

“My work matters”

Can you tell me where you can buy that sort of employee engagement?

Employee engagement is much more than an annual survey or a new workshop. Employee engagement requires managers to find out what money can’t buy for each and every person on their team. What can you do to employ their heart and not just their head and hands?

Surveys and workshops, while valuable, are also generic by nature because they don’t tap into individual engagement ‘drivers’.

There are many engagement factors to consider. Each person has a unique combination of things that money can’t buy.

How do you find out what will engage their heart and not just their head and hands?

A valuable starting point in any employee engagement exercise is to do a serious analysis of individual employee expectations.

There are many tools available to give you this information. Beyond colourful graphics, look for the detailed narrative in these reports. That’s where you’ll find the details you need to help you to increase employee engagement – by addressing what’s important to each person. Then you can start applying your employee engagement strategies.

When you know what your team cares about, employee engagement is all about ‘everything money can’t buy.

If you would like to experience our unique approach to employee engagement, get in touch!

Updated post – originally published in August 2016.

About Susan Rochester

Susan is Senior Consultant and Coach at Aster HR. She also co-hosts the Work Wonders podcast with Angela Gauci. With over 20 years experience in consulting and coaching, Susan provides clarity and insights for our clients based on past experience and the latest research.

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