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

Have you ever been in one of those relationships that started out with magical moments of bliss – before one party moved on (‘just’ fell out of love, one day…), leaving the other behind to wonder what went wrong (jilted into one of those “was-it-me” depressions…)?  Well, business has left HR behind, and I feel like HR has fallen into that age-old-trap of repeating the same patterns in an attempt to get back together – as if the definition of insanity never existed!


Remember when we first met?

Back in the days of the first industrial factory – both parties were SO in sync.  Businesses made ‘widgets’ and HR was there to insure people could make them – answering to real productivity needs:

  • Promotions went to those who could make the most;
  • Recruiting meant finding those who knew how to make them best;
  • Training was step-by-step instruction on how to make the perfect widget;
  • Management included those who made the most or got others to make them faster


Remember how great it was, in the beginning?  It was love at first (factory) site.


So, what happened?

It’s no one’s fault, really, but the world-as-we-knew-it changed.  Competition amongst widget-makers and the influx of the service economy changed everything.  It made the relationship much harder to navigate.  Now, instead of people ‘doing‘ the tasks to produce the product, they had to start ‘being’ the product (or the better choice amongst widget-makers).


That’s when distance was introduced into the relationship.  Cultural norms started mattering more.  Posters were put up on the walls showing the values that everyone was meant to share.  The business still cared about productivity needs, though HR needed more to keep the flame lit – HR had to multi-task by adding the peoples’ needs to the productivity needs, or there would be less profit.  Business just didn’t understand.  It felt like HR got kind of ‘soft”…  a little too emotional, all of a sudden.


Over time, the distance grew, like Mars and Venus….  Competency structures were built.  Human Capital indexes were developed.  Engagement began to matter.  And, from the perspective of business, HR began asking for too much.  (How many assessment tools does one HR department really need to increase the productivity in one company?)  Business began to pull in the purse strings.  HR just didn’t seem to make sense, anymore.  It became so hard to communicate…  Everything started to fall apart.


It didn’t start out as a huge fight, it was more of a power struggle.  But, no matter what, business always seemed to win!  No fair.  Good results seemed to trump the things that could make people happier, after a while.  HR became too needy, resulting in that dreaded I-just-need-some-space kind of business we see today.


Can this relationship be rescued?

[Author’s note:  I have to admit…  as I got really into this analogy, I actually looked up marriage counseling techniques. Egad.]


To move from power struggle to power couple in this relationship, it will take both parties coming to the table.  Anything is possible, with a little honest conversation.  So, we may begin mediation:


Q:  Can we agree on our shared interest?

Of course, the commercial success, including profit, is what every person wants to be working toward.  After all, if the business fails, we have nothing. 


The people just need to feel more engaged in the plan.  (What happened to the committed partnership we had in the beginning?)


Q:  What are the primary needs of both parties in the shared solution?

From the business perspective of the organization:
According to McKinsey, HR practices will benefit from establishing more of a ‘business context’ and for ‘understanding the mindsets that underpin decisions made at work’ – turning HR practices into real business drivers


From the HR perspective of the individuals:
In order to connect people more directly to the strategic plan, Barbara Fredrickson writes, in “Positivity”, that when people can ‘intentionally order their own goals [at work], they may be engaged.


In fairness to both sides:
To keep the relationship on track, over time, Dr. Prilleltensky, in his study of “Wellness as Fairness”, found that thriving organizations consider the views of the individuals and of the organization, simultaneously, using similar measures.  [My research found that similar language rests in Engaged Productivity™ ]


Q.  What is the solution to rescue this relationship? 

My findings suggest that we can use technology to help us gather new measures using a new systems-based method – that leverages the company-wide ENGAGEMENT of employees to influence the dynamic PRODUCTIVITY needs in the business.  To create the dashboard that HR needs. 


By allowing people to drive the business, with their engagement as the key to fuel the productivity, HR can get back into the front seat and play the part of navigator!


Is this where we say, “Until death do us part”?  (Now, that would be retention!)


Next up… Wellness and Engagement – A two-for-one deal?

Shoring up some of your spending.




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