David Zinger on Employees’ Engagement


David Zinger is internationally respected as one of the most important employee engagement experts in the world. Here is our interview.

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David Zinger, Employee Engagement Expert

David Zinger is internationally respected as one of the most important employee engagement experts in the world. Here is the interview he kindly took the time to answer for Tap My Back:

TMB: Do you remember when did you start to get passionate about employee engagement and leadership? Was there a defining moment?

David: I have spent 15,000 hours on engagement and love the term as long as we think of it as a verb (engage) rather than a noun (engagement). I love the action and the infusion into our work. I actually remember reading the first article by Kahn that come out on engagement just over 25 years ago and thinking it was a helpful way to look at things.

TMB: Some people say engagement is not that important as it treats employees only as mere tools for productivity and not as human beings. What do you have to say about that?

David: That is not the engagement I think of. Everyone needs to benefit from engagement and engagement can improve employees’ wellbeing, relationships, career, and contributions. If is is not of mutual benefit than to me it is not engagement it is manipulation!

TMB: What are the best ways to measure engagement inside a team or company?

David: I am not a measurement survey guy so far better minds know. My background is in psychology so I do like operational definitions and control and experiment groups. I think it is time to stop trusting what all the consultancies and experts say and start testing to see what actually makes a difference.

TMB: A study says that 64% of all employees who quit their jobs didn’t feel recognized for their work. Should we worry?

David: We should worry every day we fail to recognize someone. This is not some kind of soft mushy thing it is about being human. The bottom line is not the bottom, it is supported by the work of all in the organization.

TMB: Can you give me five simple ideas any leader of any company can use to can motivate his/her staff?

David: That really is the full focus of my work and simple is not necessarily easy. I don’t want a shopping list and the sense you tick a box and engagement is done. I believe there are 10 to 20 key behaviors that employees can do, managers can do, and leaders can do. For example recognizing so many people everyday and seeing if that makes a difference or enacting behaviors that increase energy for all.

TMB: Traditional annual performance reviews vs continuous feedback? Who wins your heart?

David: We can have a mix — the key is that both are engaging and meaningful and not stupid exercises that suck energy from everyone.

TMB: Millennials, do they have a great impact on how managers see employee engagement?

David: I see if differently. I think we attribute too much to being a certain age, I am 61 but being 61 in 2015 is a lot different than being 61 in 1980. I think we are more alike than different. Let’s see where we are joined and connected rather than attributing certain things to people of certain generations. I think that is often superficial and often not that helpful.

TMB: Is public recognition really so much better than money when it comes to staff motivation? And in the long run?

David: Some prefer private recognition. Some times money is also tangible recognition too. Is is not either or it is how they are used and the meaning attributed to each.

TMB: If I ask you what’s the worst approach to motivating and rewarding employees you’ve ever heard or seen (even if the intentions were good), what’s the first thing that pops into your mind?

David: Going through the motions, being inauthentic, and actually believing it is making a difference.

TMB: In your opinion, what are the three big trends in employee engagement for the next 5 years?

David: I trust it will die in one of two ways. It will die as a fad that never achieved its promise or it will die because it is integrated into the very fabric of how we work, manage, and lead so to use the term engagement would not be required because that is just how we do things around here. I will do all I can to try and ensure it dies the second way!

Our many thanks to David for his time and awesome insights. You can find him here: http://www.davidzinger.com/ @davidzinger

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David Zinger on Employees’ Engagement

David Zinger is internationally respected as one of the most important employee engagement experts in the world. Here is our interview.

Show more