Category Archives: Employee Engagement

Employee Experience; is The Honeymoon Over?

“Candidate experience.” Google that term and you get just over 11 million hits. I’m guessing a fair percentage of those can be traced back to the contributors on this site, myself included, as sharing the gospel of the candidate experience is a pretty cool thing to do, don’tcha know?

Here’s my concern about the avalanche of material you find about candidate experience: the majority of the advice/best practice/recommendations come from consultants, ancillary providers, job boards, bloggers, or other people outside of the corporate atmosphere – everybody’s selling something, and right now the hot product is candidate experience. But for those of you/us who are sitting in the communal world, there’s a bit of a risk when you’re truly beefing up your candidate experience. It may outpace something equally, if not more, important.

The employee experience.

It’s funny when you think about it – back in the day, the joke was always about the recruiter who could sell you a job in Hell (“don’t worry, it’s a dry heat”); our job was to get ’em in the door, then let the manager worry about keeping them.

But two things changed that attitude considerably:

  1. We realized “candidate” and “customer” are interchangeable terms.
  2. Unemployment rates continue to drop. With a 4% unemployment rate, the people you are hiring are already working for somebody else – we gotta sell the sizzle, not the steak.

So the candidate now has the clear advantage, and there’s a hell of a lot more of them than there are our own employees, which means a hell of a lot more potential customers. As a result, our focus has shifted to marketing to candidates, wooing them, engaging them, educating them, making a connection, and (hopefully) hiring them as a new employee. If done right, your recruiting team becomes an extension of your consumer marketing team.

Now, back to the employee experience – Google that term and you’ll come up with “only” 4 million hits. Might sound silly, but that’s not insignificant. Talent acquisition has upped their respective game – as an industry we fully embraced the need for new ways to market, new ways to apply, new ways to interview, and new ways to engage the candidate population as the competition for talent became increasingly combative. We’ve done so to the point of creating enough noise to dwarf the employee experience.

But are we selling the dry heat? Is the recruitment marketing and red-carpet process for candidates setting up a disconnect with the actual experience of being an employee? If your recruiting message is more of a sales pitch than an actual description of the day-to-day responsibilities of the job, you’re setting yourself up for more than one complication (you may even read about it on Glassdoor.)

You can make the candidate experience a smooth ride; dazzle them with your EVP, enchant them with video messaging, get them to the front door on Day 1 – but then what?

Look at your turnover rates, especially in the first six months, and analyze each position individually. If you have an alarming percentage of employees leaving in a short time frame, you may very well have a disconnect between what you’re selling and what you’re providing.

And, as a recruiter, if you can’t change the latter, you need to adjust the former. “Candidate experience” should include a reality check about expectations, challenges, and the potential risks involved with actually walking a mile in those shoes.


My Talent Acquisition team recently participated in a teambuilding event courtesy of our friends at Strayboots. I can tell you we looked forward to this event for weeks, as the thought of a scavenger hunt through the middle of the Dallas Arts District was (if nothing else) an opportunity for a brief distraction from “business as usual” – the key being that “business as usual” for us at DentalOne = “hair on fire.” We literally have a motto in our Recruiting organization that translates to “we keep moving or we die.”

                    which may explain this…

With that as a backdrop, a spirited walk on the streets of downtown Dallas would be a great respite from the grind, and would give us a chance to strengthen the bonds of our team.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the Forum….

We were divided into three teams of 7 for the “hunt.” Our Doctor recruiters (led by our Practice Support Recruiting Manager), our Practice Support recruiters (led by our Doctor Recruiting Manager,) and the “Others” – a collection of cross-functional colleagues, me, and my boss. When the bell rang to start the exercise it became immediately apparent that our team-building initiative had become de-centralized. It was every team for itself, so to speak. The “stroll” turned into a brisk walk, a jog, and then finally a full-out sprint. Each team had a different pace, but one team made a decided effort to bury the others. Without mentioning names, this team was also, hands-down, the most intelligent and attractive of the bunch, and I don’t feel that’s an exaggeration at all…did I mention that was my team?

But I digress.

Sometime around our 8th or 9th task, as I sprinted to the Meyers Symphony Center, I observed that our day had become much more of a “teamwork” exercise than it was a “teambuilding” exercise. What does that mean? Let me give you three key differentiators that stood out:

  1. “Teamwork” can be immediately implemented ad-hoc. The “Others” really had very little direct working history with one another (outside of me/my boss), so an altruistic view of building the working effectiveness of our team was decidedly task-based. “Teambuilding” implies a fluid, ongoing process over time. We didn’t have time – we came, we saw, and we kicked butt by immediately assuming roles and hitting the pavement.
  2. “Teamwork” is benefited and amplified by a common goal, a finite timeline, and (whenever possible) the spirit of competition imbed in the process. Our team knew the “record” for finishing the scavenger hunt, we knew the timeline (2 hours), and we knew we wanted bragging rights at Happy Hour. “Teambuilding” (again, this is an interpretation) pulls the entire team toward a goal, and allows for mistakes and/or delays for the long-time benefit of the team – that’s nice, but our splinter cell was looking to just win, baby.
  3. Teambuilding is a constant process moving towards an eventual state of “world-class.” In a time sensitive, project-based assignment, you are at the mercy of the resources you have for that endeavor – so you succeed by working together for a common objective, possibly at the expense of those outside of your sub-team. That may change drastically for each new project and/or mix of resources. And that’s the beauty of the event in which we participated.

We want to do it again! And then….again. Mix the teams up, add a few new people to the chase, change the locale of the “hunt”…as we construct variations of our project teams and “teamwork” becomes a part of our culture that leads to the North Star we established –  to be a World-Class staffing organization. And that, my friends, is teambuilding.

On May 23, 2016 John Whitaker joined the DentalOne Partners team as Vice President, Talent Acquisition, based out of the Dallas Corporate Headquarters.   John is responsible for leading the Talent Acquisition & Recruiting strategies and initiatives enterprise-wide, and for building a world-class recruiting team.

Thanks again to our friends at Strayboots, we had the time of our lives!


R.O.E. – Your Return on Engagement(s)

This article is the third in a series featuring a revolutionary employee engagement concept called Engaged ProductivityTM.   Read the other articles in the series here or at:

Maybe it’s the ex-banker in me, but when I hear claims made about the ROI for engagement activities, I cringe.  Comments like – ‘When your people are engaged, they will be more productive’ – and other wonderfully vague, broad suggestions.

I find myself asking…  How quickly will all this magic happen?  Will everyone be engaged, company-wide – and, for how long?  How do I get them there – and keep them there?  Will they be engaged in the right productivity?  [Crickets chirping in response.]

To make the situation more frustrating, it seems as if we have been assuming (at least in our actions) that engaging people is a simple equation that can be solved, once and for all.  HR, along with the coaches/consultants they bring in, are (truly!) doing amazing things for individuals.  I really do mean that.

I just happen to believe that this is where it usually stops – with the individuals.  It’s as if everyone is working from a belief that:

‘If I could just engage one person + another + another + another….

And these people go and engage one more + another + another….  Then the sum of that simple equation will equal = (fingers crossed…)

Increases in (the right?) productivity AND improved engagement (sustainably?).

 Whew.  That’s a lot to imagine.  And, even more to assume in the individuals at work, in every moment.

So, if we need some sort of return for our investment.  And, the equation is not one with a fixed solution.  Then, how do we understand what we are getting for our engagement activities?

This return matters a whole lot.

Engagement [in productivity] is the reason for everything.  No matter what activity you have taken on to develop the organization or your people, the investment is, primarily, for the business.

Think about it.  Why has there been an investment in leadership development, culture initiatives, health benefits, strategic change processes, plans to foster diversity…  (okay, you get the idea)?

Answer:  To engage your people in (better) performance.

[And, then to keep them showing up and wanting to engage in more.]

To have a return implies there is one answer to one equation.

Engagement in productivity is not a simple equation.

Simple equations can be solved (1+1+1=3), but complex problems may only be managed, amongst layers and layers of fragmented pieces of the bigger problem.

What does that mean?   No matter how great any one of your projects becomes, somebody has to understand what that one solution offers as a part of the whole issue (as well as, how that part affects the other projects that have been invested in!).

It means that if you attain employee engagement, at any given moment, you may not achieve the right levels of productivity.  And, vice versa.  Complex problems, like this one, require systems thinking – and we haven’t done enough of that.

Systems thinking allows for many answers, or returns.

Engaged Productivity™ enables systems thinking 

Systems thinking is an approach to problem solving in which we can explore the relationship between every part of the issue, in relation to the whole – with the understanding that improvements in one may adversely affect another.  (Sounds like a day-in-the-life of a HR Director!)

In managing the layers of business activities from both perspectives, we sure could use a model to run a few scenarios on – as situations change.  This is what has been missing in the way HR has been structured.  There have been a number of ‘fixed solutions’, from each of the separate HR activities/tools, which became like puzzle pieces that never really fit together – at least not easily.

Engaged Productivity™, the subject of my research, is one systems language that speaks from both perspectives (the organization’s and the individual’s) – and links them both to the changing business needs.  It is a way of modeling engagement in productivity for HR and business leaders to have a dynamic view of how to manage many returns to their activities, even as they change.

Return(s) on Engagement [through models of Engaged Productivity] 

As with any system, there is input.  Your people answer one set of questions, expressing how they choose to perform, that populates the systems information used in the models.

Imagine comparing a behavioral model of ‘how your people are likely to perform’ to a business model of ‘how the work needs to be performed’.


How cool would that be?  You would know how to engage your people, individually and in teams – more meaningfully in the performance you need them to do (because they told you how!).  And, you would be able to use that information to look at the other layers, or your projects that provide parts of the whole solution, to this systemic problem.

You would have a dashboard-like view from both perspectives, using the same language.



Just think of it.  Now, your people can drive your business, instead of your business driving your people.  (Now, this sounds MUCH more engaging – and productive.)

Next up… Letting your people drive your business – with engagement as the key.

We may have a dashboard, but how do they drive the business?

Engaged Productivity™ encompasses revolutionary new thinking to solve the employee engagement challenge in quick, precise and predictable ways. 

Learn more at:

Pamela Teagarden, Founder of Authentum™, started her career as a banker, before her post-graduate work in corporate behaviors and positive psychology gave her a front-row seat at the intersection of business and behaviors.

 Read more of her bio at:

Follow Authentum on Twitter at:  @AuthentumAtWork


3 Ways to Reframe the Definition of Employee Engagement

This article is the second in a series featuring a revolutionary employee engagement concept called Engaged ProductivityTM.   Read the other articles in the series here or at:

 So many “best practices” in engaging employees feel like bribery with promises of never-ending bliss.  It’s a bit like corporate leaders are behaving like our divorced parents – at some point, Dad trumps Mom’s trampoline by putting a pony in the backyard. But are any of us really any happier at work, every day?

I would love to believe that every employee at Zappos is happily gliding down the hall on a scooter; that everyone who works with Arianna Huffington feels as if they are thriving, and that every Google employee is a champion ping-pong player.

I’d love to believe it, but we all know this isn’t the case.

Don’t get me wrong.  I get it.  I do.  These, and many other great ideas, are all wonderfully happy and engaging activities.  But (and this is a big ‘but’), can anyone be sure that – because of these efforts – the right business productivity is happening, now and in the future? And then continuing as things change or when pressure is rising?

The reality is pretty daunting.  Gallup shows that companies will lose more than $300 billion, this year alone, in misguided attempts to engage their employees [in productivity].  Egad.  That’s A LOT of fancy chefs and keg-a-rators in the corporate kitchen.

Wasted money is one problem.  Frustrated employees is a completely different problem.  Consider what it must be like at the #1 best-place-to-work-in-the-world when you have a problem with a peer or when your boss doesn’t see things the way you do?  How can that possibly be? Spoiler alert – yoga and ping-pong can only get you so far.

Maybe I should explain why I care so much.  After decades of consulting, I decided to get my Masters in Applied Positive Psychology from UPenn.  I studied happiness – from the perspective of business, precisely because I believe it should be possible to find your own happiness in your work, every day – and simultaneously increase business performance. After all, is it reasonable to expect these two dynamics to directly correlate?

After spending the last six years researching the topic, here are three things my research uncovered about the definition of employee engagement:

I.  Happiness is too broad.

Do leaders really think they can sustain the cheery disposition of thousands of employees every moment of every day – while getting these happy people to be more productive toward the actual strategic goals of the business?

Happiness is too personal.  Too emotional.  A leader could never make every employee happy, much less keep them happy over time. How could anyone fill that role? Think about waking up happy, one morning, and finding that you are unhappy that same afternoon.

II.  There are two perspectives to consider.

In your business, every activity comes from one of two perspectives:  the individual or the organization.  One is meant to serve the other, but they are different.  My research validated the obvious: the organization needs productivity, while individuals wish for engagement.  These two perspectives can be difficult to balance.  When you seek engagement, you may not get the productivity you seek, and, vice versa.

III.  We can’t forget about productivity.

First, the moose on the table – – The organization is not a human being (despite what the Supreme Court may be arguing,) it’s a series of processes.  It’s a system with goals that are meant to deliver profits.

Before we define engagement, we have to think about WHY a company needs engagement.  It’s a way to achieve more/inspire better performance and to retain (the right!) talent to continue doing that work.  We have to define engagement in a systems language that is grounded in productivity, or, we will keep losing tons and tons of money in our attempts.

My professor, Barbara Fredrickson, points out in her book Positivity that engagement is connected to ‘one’s ability to intentionally order his/her own goals [at work]’.


The research validates that employers can achieve meaningful engagement that leads to productivity, simply by transparently considering how employees choose to do the work – in the context of the organization’s strategic priorities.  This, btw, is the only level of engagement that a company has any direct (and sustainable) connection to.   Anything else – is truly none of their business.

So, I call my new definition, “Engaged Productivitytm:


“Engagement in productivity

occurs when employees can intentionally order their goals, including in teams,

within the productivity that defines their unique business performance, every moment.”

Once this foundational level of employee engagement (in productivity) is managed well, then happiness can be attained, in all kinds of ways.  Now, there’s a definition we can all be “happy” to work with!! (pun obviously, intended.)

Next up…  “Engagement is everything, but it can’t solve your problems.”

Even if we could get there, what do we do with it?

Engaged Productivity™ encompasses revolutionary new thinking to solve the employee engagement challenge in quick, precise and predictable ways. 

Learn more at:

Pamela Teagarden, Founder of Authentum™, started her career as a banker, before her post-graduate work in corporate behaviors and positive psychology gave her a front-row seat at the intersection of business and behaviors.

Read more of her bio at:

Follow Authentum on Twitter at:  @AuthentumAtWork

There Are 2 Types of Engagement Surveys (neither works like you think)

This article is the first in a series featuring a revolutionary employee engagement concept called Engaged ProductivityTM.   Read the other articles in the series here or at:

 So, your engagement survey has done a fabulous job in pinpointing the current state of your company-wide engagement, BUT what are you going to do to FIX any of the problems it highlighted for you?  You know how important engagement is.  You’ve had the phrase ‘we can only manage what we can measure’ drilled into your thinking. And your people are waiting for you to make them happy – that’s enough to make you disengaged.  Why isn’t this working? Maybe because we don’t appreciate the differences in the types of survey we are giving.  Or, maybe we’ve stretched our expectations of the survey results way outside their original intent.  Probably both.

The 2 kinds of engagement surveys

Let’s look at what we’ve got.  There are two perspectives that frame the activities in your business:  the organization and the individual.  My research validates that the ‘language’ of these two types of surveys will differ, according to their different needs.  Look at this way:  Organizations need productivity; individuals wish for engagement.  So, which language does your engagement survey use?

  1. From the individuals’ perspective,
    you get lots of how-does-it-FEEL-to-work-here kinds of questions (because engagement is mostly ‘felt’).
  • Do you have a best friend at work?
  • Do you feel your leader cares about you?
  • Do you feel your opinions count?


Imagine your job depends on increasing engagement results.  What are you going to do about finding a best friend for anybody?  Do you really know why anyone feels their boss doesn’t care about them, not to mention what to do about it?  And, by the way, how exponentially more horrific does this become when you have thousands of employees?  (For that matter, even 10 could be tough!)

  1. From the organizational perspective,
    you get a lot of how-great-do-our-processes-MEASURE-UP-to-you kinds of questions (because productivity is mostly measurable).
  • Have you received a performance appraisal in the last 12 months?
  • Are you clear as to the expectations in your role?
  • Are you able to see how your role affects company-wide performance?

Now, imagine you’re the one who receives these answers.  Better? You will probably put together a task force to address the changes to the work processes.  But, even if you roll out some pretty good stuff, are you sure – as your job depends on it – that you are going to improve engagement?

Which kind of survey are you using? That’s a trick question, because neither of these surveys is enough on its own.  Why? Because, for 2 decades, at least, we have had the same horrifically awful statistic that less than 20% of employees are actively engaged in their work.  With the time and investment we have put into measuring their moods, shouldn’t we have seen more of an active increase in engagement?  Because, don’t we urgently need it with businesses changing in such unprecedented ways?  It’s as if the surveys have been pointing out the obvious for decades, but what are we supposed to do about it? 

Measure something new – – in a new way

Why are we measuring if our people are engaged, instead of how to engage our employees in the productivity that the organization needs?  [And, btw, why aren’t we figuring that out before we ask them whether they got there or not?]

In my graduate thesis, I unveiled an assessment system that surveys how your people choose to perform so that leaders have precise, predictive information to highlight strengths-based paths to drive the business – now and for the future – withoutsacrificing engagement.  The result is sustainable Engaged Productivity™.

Of course, as you saw from the statistics above, simply achieving engagement in productivity, at any one moment, would be a pretty great thing, but it is the ability to keep it going, even through changing environments – that engages me the most about this new method.  Unlike ‘happiness’, this could be sustainable. 

Fear not, though…  You can keep your engagement surveys.  Let them inform you of the state-of-engagement at any moment.  Then, if you add the measures of Engaged Productivity™, you can highlight the most engaging path to get productivity back on track and predict ways to keep the foundation of your engagement activities running smoothly.  Your people can choose to work, in a way that works!  (Maybe even engaging in a few new friendships.)

Next up…  What does engagement really mean? 

We may be all bent on measuring it, but we haven’t really agreed on a definition.

There are 3 ways to frame that definition, btw. 

Engaged Productivity™ encompasses revolutionary new thinking to solve the employee engagement challenge in quick, precise and predictable ways.  

Learn more at: 

Pamela Teagarden, Founder of Authentum™, started her career as a banker, before her post-graduate work in corporate behaviors and positive psychology gave her a front-row seat at the intersection of business and behaviors. 

Read more of her bio at

Follow Authentum on twitter:  @AuthentumAtWork



Employee Engagement – It Just Ain’t Working

It may have gone unnoticed in your neck of the woods, but this was a landmark year in the world of engagement. It was 25 years ago that the term “engaged employees” was discussed in print when William Kahn‘s article, “Psychological Conditions of Personal Engagement and Disengagement at Work” appeared in an Academy of Management Journal. 

Though the definition of employee engagement has been inconsistent over the last several years, the behavioral concept has grown into a key Human Resources metric during that time. Not surprisingly, researchers have found direct correlations between employee engagement and profitability — as well as customer loyalty, productivity, turnover, and employee wellness. Engagement impacts them all.

That could explain why, according to a 2012 Bersin & Associates report, employers spend somewhere in the realm of $720 million per year on improving engagement — and yet 70% of workers are still actively looking over the fence.

So allow me to make a bold statement:

It ain’t working….(read more)