THE fallout from the financial crisis has been loss of face, wealth, homes, jobs, and/or businesses for many people. What disturbs me is that the financial crisis is not the root problem, the attitudes that caused it are.

Greed, lack of accountability, stupid business practices and poor legislation in some countries are no longer acceptable. In my view, they never were.

People engagement is one way to create the appropriate attitudes for the modern world, which must be about sustainable business practice in ways that contribute to the sustainability of life itself and the planet on which we live.

People engagement is still, for many, a buzz word. To thrive on the challenges of change, and there are many challenges at this moment in time, leaders must turn words into action.

Employee retention is an outcome of engagement and engagement is an outcome of how well you recruit and induct new employees. Thereafter, it comes down to how effective your performance leadership and management system is in enabling ongoing engagement for new and existing employees.

The journey to employee engagement and ultimately, retention, begins with making three key paradigm shifts. These are:

1. A move away from the traditional vision, mission and values, to the vision becoming a compelling story,

2. A mission becoming a cause beyond profit, and

3. Values becoming virtues.

I used to assist organisational leaders in the development of vision, mission and value statements. These often ended up on foyer and office walls and in annual reports.

I learnt from bitter experience that when stakeholders are not involved in the creation of such statements, there is rarely any ownership of them, and therefore no commitment to turning the words into reality. Many people are now very cynical and sceptical about these kinds of statements.

Every organisation has a story to tell. Discovering what it is requires a meeting of hearts and minds over time until a story emerges that can be distilled into something that inspires and engages all stakeholders, not just employees.

Organisations which have profit as their only goal rarely have an inspiring story to tell. Such organisations are becoming dinosaurs. The successful modern organisations have people goals (they are sometimes call social enterprises) or they have people, planet and profit goals. In the "for profit" sector, this latter organisation will be the one that thrives in these difficult times and in the future.

In broad terms, the following is a typical picture of employee engagement percentages:

* 10 per cent are fully engaged, meaning for me, people are bringing everything they are, that one-of-kind person that each of us is, to their work on a consistent basis;

* 80 per cent are open to being engaged; and

* 10 per cent are disengaged.

I see very few organisations reaching the best practice level of 80 per cent engagement!

Once an organisation has discovered its compelling story, which often is heavily linked to its cause beyond profit, and is able to tell its story with integrity, people aligned with the story and cause should be the only folk recruited, because they are likely to be engaged right from the moment they start employment.

People will soon become disenchanted however, and eventually leave, unless the stated values of the organisation are actually lived, in other words, values are virtues.

A powerful performance leadership and management system is essential to maintain employee engagement. There are three key components of such a system:

1. Documented agreement with employees on their personal and business goals and how they will be accomplished;

2. Processes and techniques leaders and managers follow and employees agree with, that appreciate people when they do well and hold them to account when performance is less than what was agreed;

3. Formal performance reviews, held at least every 90 days, that are a celebration of people's performance as well as a time to adjust goals and plans to achieve them, for the next quarter if required.

Turn your vision in a compelling story, your mission into a cause beyond profit, your values into virtues, and your performance leadership and management system into an ongoing people engagement enabler and you will not only thrive in these difficult times, you will remove the key causes of the challenges you face, and future-proof your business.