disappointmentIt’s the most overlooked aspect of employee engagement. And yet, it’s the aspect that matters most — especially if you’re in the graduating class of 2013, and stepping into a still uncertain, fragile global workforce economy.

I’m talking about the emotional element of the employee experience. And that’s not just a hunch. According to recent workforce engagement research, emotional commitment is 4x more powerful than rational commitment in driving employee effort. In other words, when employees are rationally committed to an organization, they’ll stay if they believe it is in their self-interest to do so. But when employees are emotionally committed — when they believe in the value of their job, their team, and their organization — they exert discretionary effort. And discretionary effort is where the engagement magic happens.

That news probably doesn’t surprise you any more than it surprises me. I’m a big believer that we’re loyal first to the work we do, then to the teams with whom we work, and last to the organization that hired us. A sense self worth and job worth is critical, if we want to feel valued on the job. But unfortunately, too often, organizations tend not to focus on these realities.

The chief workplace management and well-being scientist at Gallup suggests a fresh approach. In a recent FastCompany interview, Dr. Jim Harter explains that, because individuals have a core need to feel appreciated and valued, organizations should be extremely generous with praise and recognition. In fact, I’d argue that we thrive not only on praise and recognition — but also on continuous constructive feedback about where and how to improve. Both encouragement and guidance are keys to performance and growth.

But in truth — it’s a stretch to find either, in today’s environment. Harter’s research indicates that nearly 3 of every 4 U.S. workers are either disengaged or actively disengaged from their jobs. Over half are willing to show up for work, but generally do only the minimum required. And another 20% are intentionally counter-productive. I doubt there’s much positive feedback or encouragement happening in those scenarios.

We can’t change what we don’t acknowledge. So I propose that we not only acknowledge the issue — but actively talk about how the “world of work” can tackle disengagement head-on. And what better venue than the SHRM Conference & Expositionnext week in Chicago? Come talk with us and other HR executives and practitioners about this and related issues! My TalentCulture co-creator and #TChat forum co-host, Meghan M. Biro, will join me as we work the #SHRM13 aisles and report LIVE throughout the conference. And don’t forget to save the date for a #TChat double-header next week that includes the Margarita Meet-up at Achievers Booth #2455 for a “CLASS of 2013″ Panel discussion focused on results from a recent survey of 10,000+ graduating students.

And lastly, won’t you and the rest of the “world of work” join the #SHRMKickball fundraising event at the 2013 SHRM Conference & Exposition coming up in Chicago, June 16-19? Any donation is welcome, and while you can give directly to No Kid Hungry at any time, consider giving to the Green team via my special fundraising page here.

Thank you! We’ll see you at #SHRM13!