Raise the Bar for Employee Engagement Efforts

Go beyond employee surveys to encourage a connection to the organization’s goals. 

When we look at a typical distribution of employees across the employee engagement spectrum we find that our organizations are being driven forward by a select few, highly engaged employees. Our organizations tend to look like a bell curve, with only a small fraction of employees (usually less than 15%) clearly connected to their work and the strategy of the organization. Think about this for a moment. Would we settle for these types of numbers in any other area of our business? Would you be willing to have only 14 percent of your systems, copy machines, printers, or facilities functioning at full capacity? The answer is obviously “no.” When we lose capacity in any other part of our business, we invest or reinvest—and we should do the same with our people.

Each employee within an organization puts forth discretionary effort; they come to work with a choice of how much effort they are willing to give their company. An engaged employee is fully involved in, and enthusiastic about, his or her work. These employees care about the future of the organization and feel a strong emotional bond to the business.

We have learned over the past 15 years that employee engagement is both an art and a science. Scientifically we have learned a great deal about what engages employees and how to measure such engagement. However, improving employee engagement in a company is as much art as science and many employers still struggle in making progress on this front.

How can an organization create an environment that truly engages its employees in order for the company to flourish?

One of the core challenges an organization faces is getting beyond the survey. Many organizations and HR departments have viewed the “organizational survey” as the silver bullet to employee engagement. Unfortunately, surveys and collecting data are only so helpful and in some cases, these tools can be harmful. Unfortunately many surveys and survey tools are poorly designed, too narrowly focused, too long and can be biased. Even when good information is collected, wisdom is not always gained. Why? There are at least three significant reasons:

  • The survey is an event driven process.
  • We are outcome driven rather than sincerity driven.
  • The onus is on the manager.

Surveys Alone Won’t Boost Engagement
In most companies surveys are events driven by the HR department and generally occur annually. Employees fill out the survey, they wait to get the results, and then they wait to see what changes. Too much time passes between the milestones associated with a survey process for employees to garner much from it. The connections between feedback and the action planning process get lost and the organization does not get credit for it’s’ efforts.

For the employee, this process may be cathartic but it is reactive rather than proactive. As an employee I have a voice and can use it, however, I do not have ownership over the survey process: Responsibility rests somewhere else in the organization. As an employee I typically have to wait for the process and react. In too many organizations there is no ongoing vehicle for maintaining and encouraging employee engagement: It’s all about the survey.

We must move beyond the survey event to establishing, nurturing and maintaining an on-going dialogue where employees can be proactive — a dialogue that is tied to our strategy and the success of our business. Employee engagement is meant to be baked into the fabric of an organization. What steps are you taking to move beyond the “annual event?” Do you know what your options are?

Sincerity Driven Instead of Outcome Driven
Everyone wants to ‘do’ employee engagement because they want to increase the likelihood their organization will be successful. As organizations, we focus on profitability, revenue, customer loyalty and a host of other measures. All of these success factors are important. However, when we lose sight of the fact that it is people that take the actions that drive the business outcomes our efforts can come across as manipulative.

We must be sincere in our efforts to promote employee engagement. At Performancepoint LLC, we talk about “mutually beneficial bonds.” Both the organization and the employee must benefit from our actions. More importantly, everyone must at least know of and, hopefully, buy into the benefits. When we are truly interested in our employee’s welfare, as well as business outcomes, we are more likely to gain success. Do you know the steps to take to build mutually beneficial bonds in your company? What are you doing to ensure your organizational and managerial efforts are sincere?

Managers Can’t Do it All
Most organizations measure engagement based on one driver — the manager. A message we often see the management in a company send through the actions they take, usually unintended and subtle, is that employee engagement is the responsibility of the manager. This message is also heard loud and clear by employees to say that they are not responsible for their own engagement — it’s up to their manager. We provide cover to those who say they are disengaged and allow them the excuse that it is solely their manager’s responsibility. In essence through our best intentions we create a victim mentality in our organizational culture.

Managers are an important aspect of the employee engagement footprint. Make no mistake the manager is a key driver. However, the manager is not the only driver. We must utilize all of the engagement levers at our disposal. We must use each lever appropriately and at the right time. Do you know what the engagement drivers are? Do you know how to use them to help your organization move beyond just the manager?

In a recent survey by Performancepoint LLC, we asked people if they were thriving and only 34 percent of those surveyed said they were. For the majority of employees it can be a struggle to get through each day because they are not thriving at work. If we are to increase engagement we must help our employees become more fulfilled and passionate. We must engage the whole person which means it is not about the survey, statistical success or the manager. Engagement is about everyone. Do you understand the art and science of creating shared ownership for engagement from all employees? What are you doing to communicate this through your organization?

Raising the bar on engagement does not need to be a difficult task nor a process of changing the organization’s entire approach to engagement. Often it is either redirecting/refocusing efforts or adding complimentary practices. The key is to ensure your organization’s engagement practices are moving toward being process and not event-driven with a sincere concern for employees and shared accountability for performance.

Original article published in Workplace HR & Safety at:  http://bit.ly/aclyJK

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