For many years we’ve been told how vitally important employee engagement is for business productivity and success. Those of us who’ve spent time working for a large corporate have undoubtedly completed the annual engagement survey and all too often seen little or no real change afterwards.

This experience is reinforced by the data from the survey companies, which shows very little improvement over the past decade, with less than a quarter (24%) of Australian employees engaged according to Gallup. So why aren’t we seeing improvements despite the many millions spent on these surveys?

Two clear reasons the surveys continue are grounded in the research and data from those very surveys, which show a) employee engagement is a critical success factor and b) most employees or not engaged. But why the lack of improvement?

From my client conversations and research, I’ve identified two key observations to explain this:

  1. The company sees employee engagement as something separate to their overall culture and strategy, an isolated initiative disconnected from the company’s overriding purpose.
  2. Attempts to improve engagement are a checklist of perks (pizza, coffee, massage, fruit bowls etc.), which at best provide a ‘caffeine hit’ to engagement that subsides once these perks become the new norm or worse still are discontinued.

Foundational to this issue is the understanding employee engagement is an outcome of your strategy and culture, not something to tackle as a standalone initiative. The companies who gain the huge benefits of engaged employees do so because it is a strategic priority embedded into every aspect of their corporate culture.

Employee engagement is a result of the daily experience people have when carrying out their job. If your culture and workspace provides a positive, nurturing environment and your employee’s roles and tasks inherently give them positive emotional experiences and a sense of purpose, there’s no need to create a separate set of initiatives to engage them.

By embedding positive experiences into roles, routines and tasks the very best companies make employee engagement automatic. It isn’t an annual survey and checklist of perks, but a corporate habit.