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Would you (still) marry me?

Today is my 26th wedding anniversary.  At 6:30 this morning, my husband called me from the road to ask me to marry him.  He's done this every year since 1985, the year I clinched the best deal of my life.  And every year I say yes.

This got me to musing about the fundamentals of human engagement in a relationship and what I've learned from this 26 year partnership that translates to strategies for healthy employee engagement.  Much has been written during the past few years about the steady decline in employee engagement as measured by companies like Mercer.  According to their recent research, 1 in 3 employees is planning to leave their employer at their earliest opportunity.

We've covered this topic regularly at the Workforce Institute in our publications and surveys.  Over and over again, the evidence points to drivers including total rewards, peers, job content, and opportunities for development and advancement as the critical differentiators between the engaged and the disenfranchised in a workplace.  Based on my own marriage and those of the long-married among my friends and family, I offer the following strategies for marital and workplace engagement:

  1. It's not all about the Benjamins. Outside of the fantasy world the Kardashians live in, most of us don't enter a marriage with wealth building as the primary objective.  For most employees, compensation growth will be modest year to year, and may not grow at all depending on external factors like the economy and/or internal factors like limits on compensation tied to job grade.  We  measure the rewards of a marriage along multiple dimensions - friendship, security, compatibility, children, building a life together, etc., but generally not based on how expensive the anniversary gifts are. Likewise, workplace rewards can be evaluated and achieved through collaboration between manager  and employee - taking into account both the needs of the business and what motivates the individual employee.
  2. It's not what you say, it's what you do every day. Sweet talk is great, but consistently keeping your commitments is even better.  Managers (and organizations) shouldn't make promises to employees they can't keep.  Employee engagement surveys often surface the employees' demand for more regular and candid communications from their leadership.
  3. Grow old along with me. The best is yet to be. The rewards of a mutually rewarding relationship are rooted in trust in each other and optimism about the future.  Devoted spouses have each others' back.  Employee engagement is rooted in the trust that their investment in your organization will continue to provide future rewards and opportunities for meaningful work and growth.

Dennis - Thanks for the last 26 years, the two fabulous children, the millions of laughs, and the glimpse into infinity and beyond.  The next 26 years should be a breeze.

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