What’s the point of employee engagement and the vast sums of corporate money spent every year trying to achieve it? Ask most “people” professionals, and they will tell you that having employees engaged with the company is an absolutely must – and who would disagree? Everyone knows that no matter how much technology we deploy, it’s the people who make a business successful.

Employee engagement is the level of commitment employees have toward their companies, often evidenced in a sense of pride they feel in telling others who they work for. Without doubt, this commitment is necessary, for reasons companies know all too well. Uncommitted and disengaged employees do the minimum or disrupt workflow, intentionally or otherwise, and the best ones leave – often to work for a competitor.

Commitment is the minimum that companies request of their employees, because they need it. How else are they going to retain their best talent, avoid the heavy costs of replacing people they lose, optimize productivity and align their entire workforce in the intended strategic direction?

Is commitment, however, all that companies could and should aspire to? What if there were a new and different focus for employee engagement efforts – one that brought value far superior to that attained by an employee engagement strategy, even an effective one?

Today’s companies are facing unprecedented levels of change, increasing levels of competition and skills shortages, and disruptive business models that threaten their existence. Against this backdrop, it’s not enough to have engaged employees. When headlines show that successful companies are going out of business every day, the companies still in existence need to up their game. They need to leverage the only true competitive advantage that remains – their people.

Employees may be committed to, and therefore engaged with, their companies, but does that commitment ensure they give their best and go the extra mile their employers are banking on? We’d like to think so, but engagement is only one part of the performance picture. We want employees to perform at their best and give that extra bit of performance that, when combined with their co-workers’, helps their company to survive turbulent times, outstrip the competition and truly thrive. To do so, there is a missing and vital ingredient: confidence.

Confidence is the key to finding that extra level of performance, the difference that makes the difference – a fact that athletes and their coaches know well. In business, however, confidence is rarely discussed, because admitting that you’re lacking in it might risk being perceived as being not up to the job and could even ultimately threaten your career. That is, unless the organization has a culture of employee confidence.

When companies aim for employee confidence, they leapfrog employee engagement, gaining not only commitment from their employees but also the confidence to deliver on that commitment, and translating engagement into high performance. When employee confidence starts to take off, it becomes a whole culture of confidence, with everyone showing his or her leadership skills.

Employee confidence meets the needs of the turbulent times today’s companies find themselves operating in. It raises the bar for performance and taps into latent talent, maximizing not only the potential of every single employee but the organization as a whole. Leaving talent lying dormant after it has already a cost significant amount to recruit is like finding a bucket’s worth of pearls under the sea and never taking it to market. Companies spend vast amounts trying to attract the best talent to their companies and investing in their employer brands; what if your best talent is already in place? What if you already have talent that you can harvest to make a market-winning difference, bringing in new business, building shareholder value and enhancing reputation? Nurturing existing talent is cheaper than looking for it outside the organization. It’s just waiting for the right culture to plug the confidence gap and offer the understanding that confidence is the key to unfulfilled potential.

Companies that plough money into employee engagement without recognizing the role that confidence plays in performance are not only not realizing their potential but also doing themselves, and their employees, a disservice. Some employees go to work to receive a paycheck at the end of the month. Most, however, go to work to realize their potential. If they don’t, through a lack of confidence, isn’t it a bit of a pointless exercise?

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