Employee Engagement

Employee Disengagement During Economic Crisis

As the end of the Global Recession looms, and despite less than desired unemployment numbers, it is now necessary to address an insidious problem…..Employee Engagement is at all time low!


If you choose to focus on the data it is compelling, before the recession globally those who categorized themselves as “Highly Committed” to their companies was 14% and domestically 21%.


A reasonable assumption is that this degree of highly committed has gone down.  In proof of this assertion I would offer the recent HBS study that indicated that despite the recession approximately 20% of those categorized as high potentials left their companies.


For those of us not driven by data we can rely on the war stories of our friends, colleagues, and in some cases ourselves to recognize that for the most part the commercial sector did not take the long term view on employee morale during this downturn.


Stories such as memos to departing employees “don’t be ashamed to be seen going through your neighbor’s garbage if there is something there you want”. Or “today is your last day, we are sending you a document that has to signed and returned right away or you forfeit all rights and entitlements” in other words sign or starve, abound.


Unfortunately, the above stories only touch the surface of the dunderheaded practices employed by a number of companies.


So where does this leave human capital and executive managers?







  • Engagement is abysmal whether you come from a data or anecdotal point of view
  • The productivity of “Survivors” is higher because they have assumed the responsibilities of the displaced
  • The impending demographic crunch of retirees and labor shortages although slowed down has not disappeared
  • There is a whole new generational cohort of worker coming of age who will demand respect and career clarity
  • Our methods of tracking engagement are suspect as who would complain overtly at a time such as we have experienced
  • There is a high level of cynicism and distrust of senior managers and human resource professionals


The question now becomes to prosecute a business strategy how do we re-engage the disenfranchised?


We could start by saying a collective “We Are Sorry”: but candidly that is insufficient based upon the damage caused.


There is a folklore vignette of President Roosevelt being wheeled into his first Cabinet meeting during  the REALLY BIG DOWNTURN and saying “now what”?  When his Cabinet collectively shrugged he supposedly said “go back to your Departments, be bold and creative, if something doesn’t work try something else”.


We are in similar circumstances as our challenge is not only to once again prosper, but as importantly to re-engage our employees.


If we abdicate on this challenge or possibly even worse fail to be innovative, I would stipulate that enterprise success is likely an illusion.


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