Employee Engagement: Where Do We Start?

Published on March 11, 2013 by

"Employee engagement" is a hot topic in the workplace today--and for good reason. More and more "employees" are feeling stretched beyond their capacity, feeling under-appreciated and under-valued. (Please note that I didn't say "under-paid." For the most part, money isn't the problem and more money isn't the solution to the "employee engagement" problem.)

Meanwhile, more and more managers on all levels are complaining about the lack of talent or about their "employees" not being "engaged." If you doubt that, just ask any manger how many "employees" they have that are at the top of their game.

If "employee engagement" is such a big problem, what can we do about it? Here's a suggestion on where to begin. Let's change our thinking and the way we talk about "employees" and "leaders." In fact, let's do away with the first word: "Employee." Seriously? Yes, seriously. The words we use are important and they have impact.

In fact, I think the problem we have with "employee engagement" starts with the first word: "Employee." Why is that?

Let's start with this: Does the word "employee" inspire you? If you think of yourself as being an "employee," does that "engage" you? Do we even know what we mean when we talk about someone being an "employee?" Check out the definition and see how (un) inspiring it is! Maybe that's the reason Walt Disney World doesn't use the term "employee." If you work at a Walt Disney World theme park, you're not an "employee," you're a "Cast Member."

What is an "employee?" Merriam-Webster.com tells us an "employee" is "One employed by another usually for wages or salary." Think about that. Paying someone money is important, but it's not enough to get them to unleash their talent, purpose and passion. That takes more than money.

The solution for our "employee engagement" problem isn't simple or it would have already been fixed. There's a lot to be done to unleash the talent and passion of "employees." Where do we start?  How about starting by getting rid of the word "employee."

I'm open to suggestions. Leave yours in the comments section!

P.S. In my next post, I'll explain why "The employee engagement problem is really a leadership engagement problem in disguise."




  1. Michelle Hill

    I prefer "team member" which carries with it the connotation that we are ALL a team; management AND staff. We all contribute to the success of the team and we're all accountable for team dissention and communication breakdowns.

    • Alan Allard

      Michelle, thanks for stopping by. I like the term "team member" as well. I agree fully with your comment here: "We all contribute to the success of the team and we're all accountable for team dissention and communication breakdowns."

      Different team members have different skills and level of skills, but we all have equal responsibility to bring all we have to the team. And while we don't all have the same level of impact, each person's role is important and needed. Otherwise, why have that role filled?

  2. JoAnn Corley

    When I career coach; work with individual and corporate clients we use the phrase.. "individual contributor"....there's lots that is implied in that term...

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