This question headlined a recent article at http://www.workforce.com/section/09/feature/24/98/96/index.html where you may need free registration to read it. They quote a Bain & Co. expert as saying that for nine out of ten executives, "Companies are realizing that culture is as important as strategy…." But later on Bob Eichinger warns "you can have engaged companies without kindness" and "too much kindness can result in satisfied employees who aren’t engaged."
Did someone say "fat and happy?" Aaarghhh! They go on to quote skeptics who say "it could be argued that companies get highly engaged employees because they are high performing" and "it’s not a given that companies with engaged workforces perform better [financially] than those that don’t." We should all be sick of these dopey comments by now.
The research is quite clear – you can’t run a successful company on engagement alone – duh!? Of course! You also need decent systems, good customer relationships, solid financing and financial management and a good strategy along with engaged employees – the four elements of the Balanced Scorecard. Suggesting that kindly workplaces are a good thing isn’t the same as saying they’re the only thing.
As for high performance generating engagement and not the other way around, studies have repeatedly shown it works the other way. Yes, good results reinforce happiness in employees, but to get the good results you first need a committed and engaged workforce… along with other obvious requirements. It happens to have been shown that engagement contributes more than 60% to results, making it not just nice to have, but the most important ingredient.
It has also been shown that engagement requires more than just kindness (but that, too). It also takes challenge, support and training, fairness in proportional compensation for performance and other rewards and, not least, ethics.
When are we all going to hear and see every commentator recognizing that it takes a number of factors working together to get results. Leave out some and you have a formula for failure. The great thing today is that we have the research to prove what the factors are and therefore the opportunity to scientifically ensure our organizations have the ingredients they need to excel… and create more happiness for all of us.