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Is this A Job, or A Career?

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On a recent client debrief after conducting an HPCA (Engagient’s assessment tool) one of the members of the senior leadership team was reacting to the low employee engagement scores they received and asked me, “did it ever occur to you that some people are here for a job, not a career?”

I understood her point — that some employees are not looking for or are incapable of being “engaged at work. However, if we resign ourselves to the notion that some of our employees are beyond the reach of finding meaning and purpose in what they do, then we are on a one dimensional playing field with money as our only available tool by which to improve a wide range of high business value issues including: employee morale & well-being, productivity, quality control and profitability.

It is very common in low engagement work environments for employees to focus their felt discontent on the issue of compensation.  After all, why else would they come to work in such a meaningless, unsatisfying workplace were it not for the money?  This is, as we have discovered in our client work, all too common a sentiment. This particular client was making a well-intentioned stab at improving morale by bringing in consultants to conduct a full compensation review for every position in the company.  One thought of the CEO-owner was that when his employees see that they are paid a fair (if not slightly above par) wage, their gripping over pay will go away. We seriously doubt it will, even though we supported the review as one of several options.

We suggested that even though many of his employees said their number one concern was related to compensation, “solving” that problem with a compensation review process would only postpone the need to take a deeper look at ways to provide a work environment that gets employees truly engaged – to a degree where the behavioral traits of employees are significantly different.

One thing that I know was difficult for the CEO was the fact that his senior leadership team agreed with the employee view that the whole issue is just about compensation. There is a subtle but very powerful problem here. Senior leadership can try to absolve themselves of direct responsibility for the problem and its solution. If they can maintain that the ability to improve employee engagement (they might be more likely to say “employee morale”) is “out of our hands” because it is fundamentally a compensation issue, then there is no pressure on them to actually improve the real, empirically validated drivers of workplace engagement. As we tell our clients, the research is VERY clear about the lack of connection between pay and performance; there is little to no connection between what employees are paid and their productivity on a daily basis.

The result of this is that the leadership team can throw their hands up in despair just like everyone else.  This leaves the CEO even more isolated and alone in their quest to both keep the business afloat AND be the sole person focused on the employee experience.

BEST PRACTICE: Do not fall into the trap of believing that the only tool available to improve and sustain employee morale and engagement is money.  In fact, much of what needs to be done to increase workplace engagement is inexpensive, if not free.  However, the CEO and senior leadership will need to devote authentic and consistent effort to doing the right things. To lean more about how to start, check out our Ten Laws of Employee Engagement.

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After several years of administering an employee satisfaction survey, our company decided to partner with Engagient to measure employee engagement, which are two very different dynamics. Engagient’s processes are clear, direct, thorough and highly effective in gaining insight into how engaged our employees were, at every level.

The high degree of professionalism exhibited by Engagient’s consultants and their depth of knowledge and understanding of employee engagement is unsurpassed. As a result of our employee engagement survey, we have begun taking measures to re-engage our employees at every level of the organization.

--Claudia H. Snyder, Director of Human Resources
Thomco Insurance
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