Getting to the Heart of Employee Engagement

I’ve read most every book on engagement that’s out there. But if I had to choose only one to read, Getting to the Heart of Employee Engagement: The Power and Purpose of Imagination and Free Will in the Workplace by Les Landes would be it. Here’s why.

Most books on the subject say the same thing. They define engagement, summarize the 100 or so studies reporting how much better engaged people perform than disengaged people and then describe techniques and tools organizations have used to improve engagement and results. There’s nothing wrong with this approach. But what I like about Getting to the Heart of Employee Engagement is that Les explains the basics—the why behind the subject of engagement—better than others.

I think understanding the basics— “why things work the way they do”—is the best way to equip someone to master a subject. Understanding the basics of photography, sailing or cooking, three of my avocations, gives me more creative latitude. This gives me a larger inventory of options to work with.

Same, too, with engagement. If you understand the connection between imagination and free will or employee perceptions regarding control n the workplace, you’re more apt to be able to adjust your thinking and techniques to accommodate a wider variety of real-time situations.

Les gets the job done using a fictional story of a thoughtful and insightful consultant who takes a human resource and communication manager on a journey of discovery. Over the course of time Tom, the manager, and David, the consultant, share their thinking about Barney the purple dinosaur, Henry David Thoreau, continuous improvement, performance development, communication and many issues in between.  It’s a fun ride.

I’m typically not a big fan of using fictional stories to make a point because they often feel contrived. But the story Les has created is beautifully crafted. The dialogue is realistic and lessons are incredibly relevant and useful to today’s CEOs as well as HR newbies.

Here’s some of the content that runs through the chapters:

  • A counterintuitive approach to optimizing employee involvement and continuous improvement while generating maximum performance improvement
  • A process for working with employees to contribute to their fullest
  • The importance of dumping the traditional appraisal process in order to foster growth and development
  • Criteria for an effective communication system that might surprise traditional communication practitioners (Hint: It’s not about more activity or publications.)
  • What works and what doesn’t when it comes to employee engagement

Getting to the Heart of Employee Engagement is a fun and fast read. It will give HR and communication people an argument for recommending results-driven processes to their CEOs. And, reciprocally, it will give CEO’s an argument for recommending results-driven processes to their HR and communication people.

Everyone wins.


  1. Jim, appreciate the recommendation. I just read an excerpt — and am going to get some team members the book. I think, if nothing else, it will be enlightening beyond the typical content you see on the topic. Good stuff.

    1. Bob, it’s an enjoyable read. I think it would be great for any team to come together and ask: What specific actions can we take individually and collectively to stay in orbit?

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