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The idea that the power of employee engagement is an important and positive thing isn’t new. In fact, this goal has been on the organizational radar for so long, that it has burned into the screen. However, the traditional view of employee engagement as an important, but nevertheless optional “nice to have” is no longer valid; in fact, it’s dangerously outdated.

That’s because on today’s business landscape, employees have an unprecedented amount of influence over the factors that determine profitability at the project, program and organization levels: collaboration, work efficiency and quality, customer experience, speed of innovation, and even retention and turnover. Employee engagement doesn’t just optimize these objectives, or dial them up a few notches. It makes them happen in the first place, and drives them onward and upward.

Employee Engagement

This long overdue paradigm shift marks the beginning of the Employee Engagement Era, which is when employee engagement (finally!) takes it rightful place at the roots of corporate culture itself. Instead of being an aspect of what they do, employee engagement is built into what organizations are. It’s not an activity or a function: it’s a language and a mindset.

And it bears repeating that while they share the same label, we aren’t talking about old school employee engagement – which was often relegated to the “nice to have” bucket and rarely escaped. Employee engagement today isn’t just good manners: it’s also good strategy. Gallup researchers evaluated performance differences between engaged and disengaged work units, and verified what has been known anecdotally for decades, if not centuries: compared to their disengaged colleague, engaged employees are substantially more efficient, productive, profitable and loyal. What’s more, engaged employees are even more profitable to their organizations during and in the aftermath of economic downturns:

[Gallup] researchers discovered that as the economy began to rebound after 2009, having an engaged workforce became a strong differentiator in EPS [earnings per share]. Companies with engaged workforces seemed to have an advantage in regaining and growing EPS at a faster rate than their industry equivalents. Conversely, companies with average engagement levels saw no increased advantage over their competitors in the economic recovery.

Notably, the employee engagement that these relatively more profitable organizations leveraged wasn’t something they tried to engineer during the recession: it was already part of their culture, and as such they were able to rely on it when it mattered most. What’s more, leaning on employee engagement during stressful times doubtlessly strengthened its capacity and competence even more. That makes employee engagement a virtuous and profitable cycle.

And so, in the Employee Engagement Era, executives and other decision-makers must take a step back – and possibly do a gut check – to see if their organization is positioned to thrive…or dive.

They will reap the quantitative and qualitative rewards of thriving if their strategy, programs, policies, and collaborative work management solution all align to unleash and increase employee engagement – through little details and big ideas.

On the other hand, they will dive if they fail to liberate employee engagement from the “nice to have” bucket, and continue to see it as an important, but nevertheless optional thing. Because in the Employee Engagement Era, pulling people in, positioning them to succeed, and empowering them to over-achieve on a regular basis isn’t just an organizational asset. It’s a fundamental requirement.

Anne Catambay
As head of global marketing, Anne Catambay draws on more than 20 years of leadership experience in Silicon Valley. She joins Clarizen from Badgeville, where her global marketing efforts helped the company achieve a leadership position in a new market category (gamification). Prior to Badgeville, Anne held senior roles in global partner marketing at VMware, driving dramatic growth in a new market and seeing the company through acquisition (EMC) and, subsequently, through a highly touted IPO. Previously, she ran demand generation at Keynote Systems during the company's successful IPO, ultimately leading the company's partner marketing, corporate marketing and demand generation efforts. Anne also drove market demand in the Americas for British software company Systems Union. She holds a B.S. In business marketing, a B.F.A. in photography from San Jose State University and an M.B.A. from Santa Clara University.