Golden carrots don’t produce employee engagement

Earning more business is a natural part of growth for most for-profit organizations. It’s very easy to get caught up in focusing on the bottom line, forgetting that much of this revenue comes from the efforts of an engaged workforce. Without an engaged workforce, no business will prosper.

An engaged workplace is filled with people who are happy and excited about being part of something bigger than themselves. Engaged workers come to the job with a smile and a great attitude about the work to be performed. They take personal pride in and own a piece of the company’s success.

Why employee engagement programs don’t work

So why is employee engagement at an all-time low across the nation, according to multiple studies?

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The biggest reason for low engagement is that employers are going about it the wrong way. Let me explain. Too many employers think they can buy employee happiness with programs and unusual benefits and perks (i.e., golden carrots).

For example, they’ll hire engagement coaches and sign up for engagement programs to tell them what to do to make employees happier. The Employee Engagement: Market Review, Buyer’s Guide and Provider Profile report, published by Bersin & Associates, revealed that companies are spending around $720 million annually in engagement improvement programs alone. I’d argue that’s money that could be invested in a lot of other things, such as employee salaries, benefits, and workforce development programs that could create a bigger impact on company revenues.

There are other ways employers work against themselves, too. They bring in consultants to evaluate employee effectiveness by measuring employee tasks against revenue, down to every last cent.

Not only do these studies waste time and money, they also put loyal employees on red alert that their jobs may be on the chopping block. It’s no wonder the workplace is more about “Looking out for Numero Uno” than looking out for the company. No longer do employees see themselves as valued by their employer; instead they’re expendable.

On top of all that, employees face more “employer hoops” to jump through each year. Participating in wellness programs, working in open collaborative work spaces, the expectation of maintaining fresh skills, and the pressure to appear energetic and happy is something nearly all employees can relate to. This can result in employee stress, as employees try and prove they’re actively engaged in the success of their companies.

Better ways to improve employee engagement

If golden carrots and efficiency studies won’t improve employee engagement, what will? Here are three suggestions.

#1. Give employees meaningful work experiences

Employees need work that challenges them and inspires them to be present in their daily tasks. A job that has become dull or one that asks too much will generally result in poor engagement from employees. Take a close look at the tasks your employees are excited about and those that cause them to drag their feet. Don’t be afraid to reassign tasks to employees who’d be happier to do them, honoring each employee’s gifts.

#2. Give employees fair and progressive wages

Oftentimes, the least engaged employees are those who haven’t received a performance review in some time or who haven’t gotten regular merit increases based on their performance. If your organization hopes to retain a solid workforce of engaged employees, start with fair and progressive wages. Use a wage survey to determine competitive wages for your industry, region, and job type.

#3. Give employees a say in what happens every day

More-engaged employees are those who have some control over their day-to-day experiences on the job. Therefore, use a management approach that’s supportive, not micromanaging. Offer employees the chance to bring new ideas to the table for making improvements to processes and job tasks. Respect goes a long way toward fostering better employee engagement, so make this a core value.

These are organic ways to increase engagement and, ultimately productivity, without spending a fortune on consultants and other engagement programs that just don’t get the best results.


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2 Comments on "Golden carrots don’t produce employee engagement"

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Petrushka Kreitman

I quite agree. This is actually how I feel on the matter. Employee recognition has to be more than just handing out a plaque once a year (that is worth 2 pence) It is ongoing process every day.


Great read, thanks for sharing.