Where did it come from? First there were 'happy sheets' and basic staff satisfaction surveys. These were fairly unscientific attempts by senior management to find out what the ungrateful baskets... that is, just what the staff were thinking, how they felt about the business. Staff were rightly sceptical that their bosses had any interest in what was going on in their heads - and realised how dangerous it might be to say what they thought. These surveys were worse than useless. It was only when the 'people are our biggest asset' talk started to be at least partially believed that employers began to show real interest in their employees.
If workers are more than just a cost, maybe it was worth finding out what they were really thinking: 'Free with every pair of hands - a brain!'
Where's it going? Work by the Gallup Organisation on its 'Q12' approach - 12 questions to ask your staff - has set a new benchmark for work on employee engagement. The first question, in effect, asks: 'Do you know what the hell you are supposed to be doing?' Needless to say, the answers can be revelatory - and depressing. Can you handle the truth? Cracking employee engagement at your firm really is the Holy Grail, the X factor dividing winners from losers.
Fad quotient (out of 10) Seven and rising.