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Some Perspective on Employee Engagement: "Entire Crops Were Lost"...

First up, let me say I believe in employee engagement.  I really do.  I believe in a simple definition of engagement, though, one that's too simple to really generate consultant revenue, books or anything else that might be of value in my professional life.

Having worked at 6-7 companies in my career, here's the cold hard truth.  You can do a lot of stuff right Agent smith as a company, and people are still going to bitch, to think that the grass MUST be greener somewhere else.  That simple, yet profound strand of the human DNA is just too much to overcome to arrive at a place where you could say that you've maximized engagement.

Oddly enough, I've never seen that human need for despair characterized clearer than Agent Smith did when he was getting ready to break Morpheus in the first Matrix.  For those of you not down, in The Matrix, machines had replaced humans in a future world and generated computer code to run the minds/imaginary lives of humans while they slept in pods and generated electricity.  Here's what Agent Smith said to Morpheus about a failed attempt to generate code to run the human mind:

"Have you ever stood and stared at it, marveled at its beauty, its genius? Billions of people just living out their lives, oblivious. Did you know that the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world, where none suffered, where everyone would be happy? It was a disaster. No one would accept the program, entire crops were lost. Some believed we lacked the programming language to describe your perfect world, but I believe that, as a species, human beings define their reality through misery and suffering. The perfect world was a dream that your primitive cerebrum kept trying to wake up from. Which is why the Matrix was redesigned to this, the peak of your civilization. I say your civilization, because as soon as we started thinking for you it really became our civilization, which is of course what this is all about. Evolution, Morpheus, evolution. Like the dinosaur. Look out that window. You've had your time. The future is our world, Morpheus. The future is our time."

It was designed to be a perfect human world, where none suffered, where everyone would be happy. It was a disaster. No one would accept the program.  Entire crops were lost.  

That's your money quote on broad-based engagement efforts.  Do them.  I get it, you'll do some good.  But never (never!) think that what you do, no matter how progressive/cool/upstream, is going to turn all the people.

We're conditioned to look for misery and suffering.  Drama.  That's called a +1 in real world.

Play the clip and look around you.  I'm rooting for you.  Don't let them drag you down.



Interesting blog about #employee engagement, but perhaps the "nay sayers" need to go?

Arnaud Grunwald

Love the concept and the quote ;) That still should not deter us from trying to bring everyone to the bright side!

Our perspective at Hyphen is that if all employees can see other employees engage 1) in real-time and 2) with a real and honest (=anonymous) voice, that will be motivating and might convince the ones on the fence to participate, contribute and bring ideas to the table.

Not saying that it's not a challenge and that we don't have to push the laggards and incentivize participation with gamification etc. But total transparency does help!

Matt Landrum

illegitimi non carborundum

I like the idea of taking the pulse on engagement through something like the Gallup 12Qs. Seems pretty data-backed to me. Of course, sometimes even your best folks go off in the dumps. I want to know about that ASAP. I'd want to sell any engagement consulting as "how much did you spend on quality programs last year?"

As stated often, the chronically bitchy need to move along... one bad apple and all that.



However most companies should keep trying to make their employees happier with real social benefits, not just free coffee or chocolate snacks. It's really important to make a bully-free workplace, flexible working and hire a boss with emotional intelligence.


Great tips, Too many employers assume that forcing employee participation will work. It's quite the opposite. It starts with cultivating an environment where they want to participate.

Rishiman Chandwani

After reading your article I am convinced that you will be very valuable in providing us feedback. We have had this in the works for a couple of years and its become an obsession to build a Future of Work platform that goes across candidates, employees and customers. Something that helps you connect across all 3 in a seamless fashion in an integrated fashion. For millennials and for quality decisions made fast on all people aspects. Hear what your people have to say and align for business success. Try for free - all we request is your valuable feedback for us to grow better.

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