None of the above has anything to do with productivity. For example, you can be involved in your work without being motivated to do anything about it! Likewise, you can be greatly interested but inept. Interestingly, the word derives from the French word "gage," which means something thrown down by a knight as a token of challenge to combat. Historically "engagement" means to be in the process of battle. True to the "at will" nature of employment, it seems that we'd rather have engagement than true commitment.
My diatribe on word choice aside, the 50 Most Engaged Workplaces Award identifies these eight criteria as the foundation for generating employee engagement:
Essentially, this is a checklist of good management practices. You might as well cross out the word "engaged" and substitute "profitable."
Noticeably absent from that list is any mention of compensation. I continue to believe that pay is the No. 1 reason why people go to work every day. However, once employees earn what they perceive to be a fair day's wage, then these other factors come into play. Of course, another way is to look at what drives "engagement," or its older equivalent, "motivation," in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, which focuses on the need for survival, security, belonging, ego gratification, and self-actualization.
After surveying numerous organizations and speaking in confidence with thousands of business owners and employees, I can tell you that the No. 2 concern at work is also the No. 2 concern at home: The quality of communication. Ultimately, we're looking for some financial security at work and at home and then communication that's clear, caring, and allows a safe place for dialogue. When you do a good job of communication, you support all the other factors mentioned.
Although all of the award criteria mentioned are great, your primary concern should be what matters most to your company and its employees. One way to learn this is to ask questions. Of course, unless you're deaf, dumb, blind, or uncaring, you usually realize the major concerns. The question is, do you really want to do anything about it?
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") has set its sights on employers' wellness programs, which many organizations have set up as a way of encouraging employees to adopt healthier lifestyles and improve productivity, reduce absenteeism due to illness, and control health insurance costs. The EEOC's latest action against Honeywell International, Inc. ("Honeywell") is evidence that the EEOC has no plans to wait and see whether the courts will agree with its position in the first round of cases asserting that aspects of such programs are unlawful.
In late October, the EEOC petitioned a federal district court judge in Minnesota to stop Honeywell from applying penalties and costs against employees based on their participation in biometric testing of employees and their spouses as a part of its wellness program. The EEOC contends that if employees or their spouses fail to participate, they will lose Honeywell's contribution to their health savings account and face up to $2,500 in health insurance surcharges. The EEOC argues these consequences for non-compliance violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.
In a positive sign for employers, the district judge denied the EEOC's motion for a preliminary injunction and will not block Honeywell's administration of biometric testing and assessment of health insurance-related surcharges. The judge has not yet ruled on the legality of Honeywell's wellness program. However, the judge opined that Honeywell's program initially appeared to comply with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's (ACA) surcharge limits, and she expressed some reservations about the EEOC's claim that Honeywell's wellness program violates federal law.
Based on public records, Honeywell's wellness program has many more safeguards and even-handed components, such as the ACA-compliant incentives/penalties and alternative means of participation in wellness activities, than the programs challenged by the EEOC in previous litigation this fall. Those previous cases allegedly involved wellness programs that imposed heavy financial burdens for non-participation, such as having to pay the full cost of one's employee health insurance (both employer and employee shares of the premium). Thus, the EEOC's challenge to Honeywell's plan is somewhat perplexing, as is the continued absence of guidance from the EEOC on what is permissible in wellness plan design.
Contributed by Laura Anthony of Elarbee, Thompson, Sapp & Wilson LLP www.elarbeethompson.com
Don Phin, Esq. is VP of Strategic Business Solutions at ThinkHR, which helps companies resolve urgent workforce issues, mitigate risk and ensure HR compliance. Phin has more than three decades of experience as an HR expert, published author and speaker, and spent 17 years in employment practices litigation. For more information, visit www.ThinkHR.com.
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