This week’s Worst Idea comes from an article in written by David Ossip, the CEO of Ceridian and a regular contributor to that website.

Let me begin by stipulating that I have no reason to believe that Mr. Ossip is anything other than an excellent CEO or that his company isn’t top shelf.  I’m merely commenting on a couple of problems I have with the seemingly sensible advice he offers, advice that should be taken with several pounds of salt.  Ossip writes:

“(E)very six months at Ceridian we perform a broad employee engagement survey of all employees. HR works with each department and does several employee reach-outs to drive employee participation in the survey. After the survey results are tabulated, HR reviews the results with the senior executives to identify and develop programs for the areas that are the most important for the employees. The programs that we develop are specific (i.e. explicitly address items identified by the survey), actionable (vs. vague or general commitments) and measurable. It’s important that we be able to determine our progress as we work towards our engagement targets.”

Ceridian describes itself as “a global human capital management technology company,” so it’s hardly surprising that Ossip takes a rationalist view of engagement; as the saying goes, “Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly.”  But by reducing the engagement challenge to a project plan when it is really more a matter of institutional soulcraft, you run the risk of taking unearned comfort in the illusion of rigor: “This must be valid!  There are many numbers, some of which have several decimal places!!”

And the central role it gives to HR in all of this makes it too easy for people in non-HR roles to see engagement as just another task on their to-do list, one put there by—cue ominous bassoons—Human Resource Professionals.