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I had an interesting conversation with someone that got me thinking about management’s thinking around people engagement in most organisations. The person contrasted experience of working in the private sector with that of working in the public sector. In one of these environments she noted that employees predominantly had a clock-watcher attitude to their work and it was not uncommon to leave work early on most Fridays but still expect their full-salaries at the end of the month despite the short hours worked. As I was reflecting on this issue I then had an instant realisation that perhaps this problem may not just be an employee problem only but also a management problem.

The question that came to me was: “What are most organisations offering their employees beyond salaries and financial benefits?”

Indeed most people do not work for the fun of it and financial recognition has a significant role to play in any employee’s decision to join or stay with their employer. The 2016 Global Workforce Study and Talent Management and Rewards Study by Towers Watson showed that salary was the highest factor in employees’ decisions to join and stay with a company. But can money really be enough of a motivator to get long term commitment and engagement from employees? Towers Watson noted that while attracting and retaining talent are important, employee engagement (feeling attached to the company and willing to exert extra effort on its behalf) was the most critical factor for predicting business performance. Does money result in high employee engagement? Their results for drivers of employee engagement proved otherwise.

The results of this study show that although salary is what attracts people to organisations and can also be a significant factor in their decisions to stay, it is not sufficient to get an engaged workforce. This should then raise a question: “What are most organisations offering their employees beyond the financial gain?” As I continued to reflect on this question I wondered: “Why is it that monetary reward appears to be the main tool most management practitioners use for motivation and engagement of employees?” Is it the only tool they know?

I then remembered one of the famous quotes from the previous chairman of Toyota, “First we build people, then we build cars” – Mr Fujio Cho. It came to me that building people in this case should happen at the stage when we design the work. The challenge that senior leadership has to tackle is to design work which challenges and engages employees and is purposeful. After all one of the lean objectives of a lean thinking organisation is that learning should accompany the process of doing the work. How has your organisation tackled the challenge of employee engagement? Is it relying on the old carrot and stick approach or has is evolved to integrate other innovative approaches? How are people made to feel connected to the purpose of your organisation?