Should employee engagement only focus on retaining employees?

The success of employee engagement activities should be gauged by their impact on productivity.


Engaged employees are definitely happier, not just at the workplace but also at home. How many times have we heard this? Employee engagement has become very important to organisations today. Companies across the world have become aware of and are opening up to employee engagement tools. But what exactly is the goal?

Employee engagement is described as the extent to which employees are passionate about their work, are committed to the organisation, and put in extra effort into their work. So, when companies become serious about employee engagement, is it only because they wish to retain their employees?

Retention depends on a lot of factors, and tools and platforms such as Vantage Circle only contribute in some way. If the employees lack the basic building blocks, such as fair compensation, security, career progression, and so on, even the best of engagement activities will fail to retain them.

Vantage Circle helps companies attract and engage their employees with an employee engagement and benefits platform that brings everything together in one place.

Despite fair compensation, if there is a change in the industry landscape and other companies offer unrealistic salaries because of the increase in demand, employees will still leave. It is not always true that retention can be improved by improving the non-mandatory engagement and benefits initiatives. Then what exactly is the point of engagement initiatives if employees cannot be retained, you may wonder.

The first step is to understand that the goal of employee engagement is not and should not be retention. The success of employee-engagement activities should be gauged by their impact on productivity. Retention should just be the byproduct.

The aim should be to ensure that as long as employees are in the company, they should feel a sense of ownership and responsibility. They will leave at some point or other, because of various reasons beyond the organisation’s control — salary hike, personal family obligations, and so on— but as long as they are in the company, they should feel highly engaged and be willing to put their heart and soul into the work.

What kind of engagement activities are important?

Here is a broad overview of features based on which employee-enagagement activities can be analysed.

Visibility vs impact
Some activities are highly visible, but may not really be useful. For instance, many organisations create work floor dance videos. If posted on social media, such videos will score in terms of visibility too. The activity itself may be highly entertaining, but does it really impact the morale and productivity? Can such an activity be scaled across locations? While focusing on visibility, impact should not be forgotten. The right impact is something that has to be ensured.
Criticality vs coverage
While employee engagement and benefits are offered so as to impact the maximum number of employees, some initiatives are needed simply because they are critical, even though they may affect only a small number of people. Childcare, for instance, may impact less than 10 per cent of the employees an organisation, but if it is not offered, it takes a very high toll on these 10 per cent. It is similar to insurance. Few people may claim it, but it is critical for everyone to be covered. Just because actual claims will be made by only a handful of people, insurance cover cannot be ignored.
Implementation vs result
Many companies organise wellness activities, but they are very ad hoc in nature and done to simply tick a box in the yearly plan. Rarely does anybody follow up to find out what the outcome of the activities was. Nobody tries to study whether the wellness activity has actually improved employee wellness. Sometimes companies measure the wrong metrics, for instance, the number of registrations that happened, the number of people who turned up for the event, and so on. But the elephant in the room is the actual number of people who actually improved their health or made some progress in the right direction. Rarely is anybody sure of the result. An activity need not be blindly indulged in just because it is a fad. Its outcome has to be measured.

If the employees are engaged, the customers or clients will also be engaged. Employees need to be convinced about the organisation’s commitment to engagement and employee well-being. To get a hand on the pulse of the staff, the organsiations should create a safe environment where they feel free to present their ideas, express their views honestly and anonymously.

There are plenty of ways out there to measure employee engagement and benefits. What is important is to be focussed on measuring the right goals and following up on the outcomes/results. All this may require time and effort, but will improve the companies’ performance in the long run.


  1. Agree, retention cannot be the only measure for impact of employee engagement agenda. If we are able to attract talent, people are happy about company leadership and culture and hr policies and benefits and ready to recommend the organisation to friends, company is growing in business volumes and profitablity and cost reduction, employees are ready to sacrifice, give suggestions, suggest innovative and strategic measures, participate well in company programs with families, work well in teams sans conflict, win awards for the company be it sports, culture, quizzes etc and enhance brand image, if company is preferred employer not only for compensation and benefits but for leadership and culture, low absenteeism, punctuality, low accident rates, disicipline, etc etc are outcomes of employee engagement policies and engaged employees ready to learn and grow with the organisation and speak well of the organisation even if they happen to leave.

    Apart from attrition rates, we have now gallop type surveys to measure employee satisfaction and engagement levels and morale, and see where one could improve or fine tune further, and what are the changing needs and views of employees. While one need to have excellent performance management and liberal rewards and recognition systems, making employees feel proud about their performance in feedback.

    Employee engagement is an outcome of visionary leadership with values and shared mission, inspirational leadership by example at all times, and employee first approach in all organisational matters leading to customer satisfaction and business growth. Creating 24x7x365 all time positive employee experience through leadership, infrastructure, culture and positive hr policies sans irritants during implementation procedures and attitude, through continuous improvement and innovation with employee participation and communications.

    Employees ready to walk the extra mile for the company in return through professional working and producing unexpected business results with excellence is felt employee engagement, apart from the number crunching, hr analytics, at times counting chickens before they are hatched?

    Employee engagement is a mutual positive experience a deeply felt bond between the employee and the employer, apart from ownership to the vision and mission and values of the organisation, sans any industrial relations disturbances, open communications, positive public relations , etc

    Hindustan Lever is said not to bother about people leaving, they are considered ambassadors of the organisation. Strict Performance Standards makes some managers leave the organisation, mutually good if they move out to places where they can find their place.

    Employee Engagement is ability of the managers to attract and retain talent for role fit with high performance outputs and productivity and ROI, through training-coaching-counseling-mentorship and inspirational leadership talent providing purpose and meaning in work to every single employee and in teams, with opportunity to learn, contribute and grow with self-renewal capabilities of the individual and the organisation moving with six sigma quality and excellence at all times.

    Hope the rambling provokes further thoughts towards excellence in employee engagement, promoting engagement of existing employees who want to continue to work, rather than worrying about people who have left, the reasons for which are varied and most times are a mystery.

    Inspired leadership and inspired people lead to high employee engagement with positive work culture and work habits.

    best regards,

    Retired hrd consultant and leadership coach, India

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