Rodd Wagner has written extensively on matters of human capital and, most especially, the social contract that exists (such as it is) between employer and employee.
His piece on the 5/11 issue of Forbes—“The End of ‘Employee Engagement’?”—provides some spot-on analysis of why this seemingly sensible concept appears to be withering on the vine.
Here's a sample:
The age of “employee engagement” may be nearing its end.
Five years from now, using the phrase might make one sound as out of touch as would touting “total quality management” today. TQM had some great concepts in the mid-1990s, but it was eventually superseded by Six Sigma and lean manufacturing, which will, in turn, be replaced by something better. “Employee engagement,” as we know it, is showing many of the signs of having run its course.
It was a good idea. Fifteen or 20 years ago, it brought renewed attention to the relationship between employee and employer. It sparked some intriguing research. Most important, it motivated some leaders and managers to take more seriously their stewardship over the people they direct.
But much of what goes by the name of engagement now is malpractice. At many firms, it’s become little more than a check-the-box exercise. The now ubiquitous annual surveys lack real confidentiality. Leaders and managers game the process to look good, to earn bonuses, or to avoid extra hassles from HR. Employees feel pressured to give inflated answers. Those who don’t rate their employers high enough are vilified.
You can read the whole thing here.