Can I be brutally honest?
Employee Engagement can be a bitch.
If you’ve spent a lot of time addressing this pain in the patootie through shiny little objects for your clients, you would know what I am talking about.
You can either blame it on the Digital Utopia hype piping in the air right now. Or on the enterprise collaboration vendor’s popcorn content which pops in, every now and then, with fantasy stories about the digital workplace, conquering the evil forces of hierarchy, breaking the tyranny of emails, and promising us the ego-less, networked paradise where humans live in harmony with machines of loving grace.
You are blessed with good karma if you engage with clients who get complexity. Because, it is tough, and I say this from the scars of my experience, wearing the hat of a consultant, and juggling the convincing act necessary to drive home the point that ‘Employee Engagement’ cannot be framed through simplistic, linear cause-and-effect models, whose success can be clearly defined through legible, outcome-based targets.
Since you never start from a blank state, (unless you are approaching it for a startup), your work involves treading along an archipelago of systems of disparate maturities, collaborative silos of diverse interests, addressing a battery of dimensions such as governance, employee needs, incumbent organizational processes, and, more importantly, the organizational cultural climate.
In my experience, I've seen a lot of value in approaching "Employee Engagement" through a series of safe-to-fail probes. When you are dealing with complex systems, theory recommends experimentation as the best way to introduce small-scale interventions, which can quietly push the boundaries of what is possible when employees feel empowered inside an organization.