When we study ‘employee engagement’ programmes, we typically find four kinds of activity: Leadership workshops, communication, wellbeing (looking after your people) and performance management.

So leaders go on workshops at which they are told they need to build trust with their workers, they should be open in relationships and they should provide a clear ‘narrative’ – a strong sense of where the organisation is going.

To improve communications we see things like ‘listening days’ and top management ‘road shows’, staff consultation events, newsletters, suggestion schemes and the like.

To improve wellbeing we see initiatives like increasing exercise, reviewing menus in the canteen, and targets are set to reduce absenteeism and sickness.

To improve performance management we see objective setting, performance appraisal programmes, training for managers in ‘managing poor performers’, awards programmes and to cap it all we see annual staff surveys, with results fed down with the directive to ‘improve’ things.

None of these things will make a difference to performance. Click on the links to find out why.

Employee engagement programmes treat symptoms, not causes. The reasons for poor engagement are to be found in the way work is designed and managed. When this is understood, it leads to the realisation that culture change is free.

Take a look at how people behave when their organisation is designed and managed on the basis of systems principles.