No matter how disguised, how avoided, how much of other language used, Employee Engagement as a topic assumes an input/output mechanistic logic. If employees are engaged (now, substitute the word for satisfied, fulfilled, happy, etc), they will be more productive. This is the ‘Happy cows produce better milk’ model, one of the six models of Employee Engagement that I have identified, and undoubtedly, the most common of all.
The model is amoral. It has nothing to do with whether satisfaction, engagement, fulfillment, happiness or anything else are good in themselves. It simply asserts that, well, if you want better (productive) milk, you’d better feed the cows. A better work-life balance, for example, produces better engagement, which produces better results. Work-life balance is good only in so far as it is the oil for the machinery. So, engagement and productivity have been intrinsically linked, and, you may say, who is to argue with that?
The worse model in ranking in my modest research was what I called ‘the moral drive’. In this model work is a platform for personal enhancement, fulfillment, being proud of personal impact, something worth telling the children. Some people will argue, and go further, that work is a right. Some of them may say that it is not just because it is a way to feed themselves and others, but also to be human. Period. Big words, big goals.
I am willing to accept that there may be different interpretations of rights and moral arguments, and that we may agree or not. But it is hard to believe that in today’s world, where we have achieved the highest of our possibilities as mankind, we should be content with ‘feeding cows to get better milk’ as the climax of the imagination when it comes to Employee Engagement.
When did the moral surgery take place? Where and when did we agree the clinical, neutral, naked, utilitarian, mechanic, and sterile concept of engagement of employees as a means to produce better milk? Is that the best we can do?