Companies want engaged employees. Professionals who will be there when things turn difficult, when there's the need to go the extra mile, to keep a customer happy or to close a new deal.
But engagement is such a difficult quality to measure. There is no "engage-o-meter" you can point at your employees to find out how committed they are. Organizations scratch their figurative heads trying to find metrics to quantify engagement; the issue is with these is that they are easy to track, but they are not necessarily an accurate measure of engagement. In my experience, some of these metrics are deeply flawed.
One of my favourites is the number of hours worked. Joe works 55 hour weeks, so he must be a very engaged and productive employee, right? Let's ignore the fact that many studies show that there is little correlation between working hours and productivity after a certain point. However, having to take that into account can be quite complicated. Some managers seem to find it easier to just measure the number of hours worked.
Another great metric is the time an employee clocks in. Fred arrives every day 1h earlier than everybody else. What a great example, right? Nevermind the fact that he leaves 1h earlier too. He's in early and that must mean that he's productive.
Often, when companies and managers try to find the engaged employee, they mistake the metrics for the actual goal.
What if instead of clinging to inaccurate metrics and old habits, organisations tried to create a culture where employees feel engaged and empowered? What if instead of measuring what time they arrive to work or how many hours they work, they found out what motivates to work harder? (hint: it's not only money!)
I believe that the best way to keep a creative employee engaged is to offer him interesting work and freedom to execute it the way he wants.
Of course, in order to motivate your employees, you need to know what they want.