Here’s a short article that puts its finger on an important thing to keep in mind when trying to drive up engagement levels.  It appeared in the New Zealand edition of HRM Online under the headline “HR Guru Backtracks on ‘Best Friend’ Engagement Test”.

The reference to a “best friend” comes from Gallup’s 12 elements of employee engagement, number 10 of which reads: “I have a best friend at work.”  From the article:

“While a principal of Gallup, I prominently defended and helped popularize the concept,” Wagner wrote in a Harvard Business Review article.

However, Wagner says he has over time become “increasingly skeptical” of so-called ‘best-friend’ metrics, which moved him to speak out against them.

“If you’re a leader (or a pollster) looking to measure and boost engagement on your team and in your company, forget about friendship,” he said bluntly.

Wagner is not anti-friendship.  Rather, he is cautioning against organizations trying to poke around in matters over which they have little control and maybe even less business:

Wagner warned HR not to “get involved” in fostering friendships. “Friendships, by their very nature, arise naturally, not as part of a corporate initiative.

Similarly—and this is my opinion, not (necessarily) Wagner’s—engagement arises out of other things having been done well, not because of posters or slogans or programs.