Book Review: Employee Engagement by Brad Federman

One of the most popular modules in the Center for Executive Coaching discusses how to engage and mobilize employees. Therefore, I read with great interest Brad Federman's new book Employee Engagement: A Roadmap for Creating Profits, Optimizing Performance, and Increasing Loyalty (Jossey-Bass).

The book is loaded with terrific frameworks and distinctions for engaging employees, and any serious manager/executive — including coaches — should read it.

It begins with an important problem, the fact that the employer/employee relationship has been deteriorating for a while now. According to the author's extensive work with clients, it is not atypical to see 70% – 75% of employees high disengaged, leaning toward disengagement, or skeptics — and only 25% – 30% leaning toward engaged or highly engaged. Federman attributes this deterioration to a number of macro shifts: increasing pace, greater anxiety, a 24/7 business schedule, and the increased use of technology. The result of these shifts is that we are all led to be more transactional and iffecietn in our jobs, and leave behind the elements that make for high-quality human relationships at work.

One of the refreshing points of Brad's book is that he thinks more broadly than simply blaming the manager. He gives a number of reasons for why many employee engagement studies are biased, and inaccurately put too much emphasis on the manager's role. The book describes a number of engagement drivers: culture, success indicators, priority setting, communication, innovation, talent acquisition, talent enhancement, incentives and acknowledgement, and customer-centeredness.

The book provides some terrific, practical ideas for companies to engage their employees. For instance, one chapter discusses how to handle feedback from employees and have engagement conversations with them. Another provides a very useful matrix for thinking about, and addressing, different kinds of turnover (great chapter title: "They Lost the Game On Turnovers"). Other chapters cover the onboarding process (see especially the job preview exercise to use in the interview process, worth the price of the book alone), executive and leadership development, career transitions, succession planning, and engaging the customer.

While I found the whole book to be, well, engaging, I particularly liked two chapters. One is the chapter "It Boils Down to Two Things," in which the author breaks employee engagement into two issues. The first is lack of trust. And the second is focusing on success and opportunity.

The other is focused on the individual and asks "What is your professional value?" This chapter talks about how to shift from being a victim to being personally engaged, and includes a set of competencies for personal engagement: personal responsibility, inclusion, change-resilience, growing self and others, and service-centered.

The book concludes with a framework that described four levels of engagement. The first is when employee engagement is ignored. The second is when it is an event. The third is when it is a process. The fourth is when it is a strategy.

Get the book, and help to make employee a strategy at your organization, along with your clients' organizations.

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