Calling Off the Engagement: Why Engagement Is Out and Cohesion Is In

Dr. Troy Hall Engagement is out, cohesion is in“Engagement” is the most commonly misused term in current management circles.  More often, unsuspecting organizational leaders do not even know this is happening. Unfortunately, a myopic focus on engagement as the solution to employee retention has actually lulled employers into misguided thinking. Whether intentional or not, employers have been led to believe if they describe certain behaviors as engagement activities long enough, employees will be “all in”and become committed, loyal and long-term contributors.

Looking for committed and engaged employees.

The organizational leader may observe the employee completing tasks with little or no errors, being congenial to teammates, and showing up to work on time. Consequently, these activities, while well intended and portray a positive perspective, do not conclusively mean the employee is engaged. It simply means the leader has observed an employee doing work without exception or delays.

From the outside looking in, these employees seem to demonstrate behaviors that signify they are committed and engaged. Here’s the problem with just relying on empirical evidence from an extrinsic point of view: observations that are not properly measured may lead to a different conclusion than originally perceived; just because employees give the leader good feeling things are going well, doesn’t mean it’s true.

Not all employees express their inner feelings and leadership is paying the price when those employees ultimately leave for another opportunity.  

Observing behaviors without measurement is inconclusive.

My Ph.D. dissertation focused on group dynamics in the realm of global leadership and entrepreneurship. I studied organizational and social behavior to better understand how groups and teams perform. In my research, the dependent variable labeled as performance was studied in relationship to three independent variables that formed cohesion. The variables of belonging, value, and commitment produce a causal phenomenon and affect the outcome of performance. This outcome can be measured.  

Without bias, this research supported the hypothesis that cohesion positively impacts performance in all stages of a group’s life cycle.

Engagement is actually the outcome of a cohesive team.

Results from my research provided many inward signs to support engagement as an outcome of a Cohesion Culture™. Within a culture of cohesion, employees bring forth their intrinsic feelings and perceptions of reality and set them in motion. Employees who see themselves as an integral part of the organization are aware of their meaning and purpose.  This offers accountability as a staple of commitment and engages them at a high level of performance. Fundamentally, the individual’s sense of belonging and alignment with purpose are key drivers to keeping employees at an organization.

Bringing inside out.

  • Employers want high performing teams.
  • Employees want to belong.
  • Employers want engagement.
  • Employees seek purpose.
  • Employers want commitment.
  • Employees desire to offer commitment as part of a need to achieve.

We know with assurance that high performing teams produce results consistent with the outcomes associated with engagement. Therefore, I can assert with a level of certainty: “If cohesion causes performance, and performance is engagement, then cohesive teams are engaged.”

In other words, engagement is out; cohesion is in.