For some time now, organizations have fallen in love with the idea of maximizing engagement at work. This has led to a proliferation of fun: foosball, Nerf, ping-pong, and pinball games — and, along the way, perhaps contributed to the frat-house vibe that marks dysfunctional bro culture. Here’s a great article from Jacob Morgan that unearths a simple truth: there are two types of engagement. The first type is shallow fun: when employees play games. The second type is deep fun — when employees take ownership of their experience inside the group.
Organizations are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on employee engagement programs, yet their scores on engagement surveys remain abysmally low. How is that possible? Because most initiatives amount to an adrenaline shot. A perk is introduced to boost scores, but over time the effect wears off and scores go back down. Another perk is introduced, and scores go back up — and then they fall again. The more this cycle repeats itself, the more it feels like manipulation.
How do you create deep engagement? Carve out space to let employees improve the fundamental systems of the group. For example: allow employees to design and build conference rooms, hold a brainstorming session to rebuild the HR function, or invest in real-time feedback systems that help people know how they are doing. Morgan calls this investing in employee experience. According to his research, companies that invested in experience did well. Really well.
Compared with other companies, the [experience-investment] organizations had more than four times the average profit and more than two times the average revenue. They were also almost 25% smaller, which suggests higher levels of productivity and innovation.
In other words, deep fun wins every time.