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Recently Bersin by Deloitte released their latest research indicating that employers spend approximately $720 million on employee engagement improvement annually. And that number has created a few shockwaves… (and some awesome reads like this one).

As HR professionals, we know how much we emphasize “employee engagement.” If we don’t know the actual budget numbers, we know a big chunk of our annual budget is put towards engagement. But $720 million dollars each year?

And what do we have to show for this huge expenditure?

For a vast majority of HR departments… not much.

We can outline the activities we’ve done. The marching orders we’ve given leaders. The various surveys and follow-up sessions we’ve completed.

But nothing of any value.

Nothing indicating our return on investment.

Nothing showing why the spend was necessary. Why it was in the best interest of the company. Why it is necessary to make the company more productive or successful.

Nothing of any substance.

How is this acceptable? Would other departments be given the same leeway?

Would Marketing, per se, be allowed to invest millions of dollars in a product without showing an ROI, impact to the business, long-term earning potential, demographics defined, and so on?

Would R&D be allowed to invest in solutions that have zero value to the greater good or the company’s bottom line?

While I know it’s been ok for HR to “get away” with not truly defining employee engagement spending, should it be? Are YOU ok with continuing that trend?

What if you worked at a non-profit and the millions you spent in the name of “engagement” was from money earned by donations? Still ok with that scenario?

Here’s the thing: employee engagement can be very impactful for a company. It can deliver a huge ROI, better bottom-line results, more productivity… just to name a few things.

But we’re not defining employee engagement properly and we’re not delivering on our investment to do these things.

And the crazy thing is, it’s pretty easy to do.

If we all stopped the “rinse and repeat cycle” we’re all used to doing, and invest some time to determine how to make engagement measurable and how to ensure your employee engagement actions match your company’s investment.