Is it a coincidence that employee engagement and the rate of successful strategy execution are identical??

How important is it to have employees who are genuinely engaged in/with the business?

Gallup News reported that a 2015 poll produced almost identical results as one conducted in 2014. Only 32% of U.S. workers are engaged (vs. 31.5% in 2014).

The report states that, “Engaged employees are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work,” and goes on to say that although engagement is up slightly since 2011 (29%), it has consistently been below 33% for more than 15 years.

And also according to Gallup, the U.S. is doing far better than much of the world, calling it a worldwide crisis that, across the globe, engagement is only at 13%.

Why is engagement so low?

There are any number of theories and opinions on the matter, but one recurring theme is performance management, which goes far beyond performance evaluation.

Performance management includes:

  • Clear identification of goals and objectives
  • Clear reasoning for internal initiatives
  • Actionable mentoring and feedback

Too often, these basic aspects are missing in management and leadership. We tend to think that simply because an employee HOLDS the job, he or she KNOWS the job. More over, we assume employees know WHY their job is important.

And finally, even when the employee understands all of that, they often don’t receive actionable mentoring and feedback, instead receiving rearview facing performance evaluations…too late to make a difference in the results…too after-the-fact to improve engagement.

What does it matter?

Again, there is no shortage of opinions on the impact of low employee engagement. Some will contend it doesn’t matter.

The author of an article at Forbes entitled "10 Reasons Your Employee Engagement Program Is Hurting Your Company" contends that, “Engagement, as measured by employee surveys, does not cause success. Engagement is, at best, a symptom of success.”     

Others may predict doomsday scenarios for the business unless employee engagement programs are implemented immediately.

 Perhaps the answer lies somewhere in between, intersecting into each camp of “it matters” and “it matters not.”

 The failure rate of business strategies

The American Management Association (AMA) reports, “60% of [business] strategies are not successfully implemented.”

Is it merely a coincidence that the 15-year historical rate of un-engaged employees in the U.S. is virtually identical to the estimated failure rate of business strategies?

The AMA defines a 10-step process for strategy execution, including these final three steps that, in turn, are also widely believed to have a direct impact on employee engagement:

Step 8:  Communicate strategy.

Step 9:  Align individual roles. 

Step 10:  Reward performance.

If the findings are correct, and these three steps increase the likelihood of a successful strategy execution, and these three steps increase employee engagement, then it is reasonable to conclude that the similarities in the rate of employee engagement and successful strategy execution are by no means a coincidence.

Can a business be successful without a strategy? Yes. Can a business be successful without having engaged employees? Yes.

But can a business improve results with a strategy and engaged employees? Absolutely!

Additional tips for enabling and encouraging employee engagement

Strategy execution and employee engagement are inseparable. Employee engagement cannot be determined by a survey nor created through an after-the-fact performance evaluation.

Employee engagement begins with the employees’ inclusion in the strategy development, builds with on-going, actionable feedback and mentoring during the strategy execution phase, and reaches its crescendo when employees are rewarded for their performance upon the successful completion of the strategy.

The National Center for the Middle Market has several resources available for helping you enable and encourage employee engagement, including the following articles. Please check out all of them.


This post is part of a larger research project by the National Center for the Middle Market. Get the full picture through the resources below: