Wednesday 22 March 2023
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Skewing Employee Engagement Truths

intrepidHR - employee engagementSkewing Some Engagement Truths?

There are about 100 different “keys” to employee engagement that some consultancy, guru, author, or blogger have at one time hyped as the new “must have” engagement silver bullet. And many of these “keys” are either flat out bad ideas or too simplistic to really have any long-term impact at an organization. I don’t buy into many of them. Not just to be contrary, but because I think about these things a lot and don’t usually just grab the latest research from the “big 3” consultancies on engagement and wrap a few boring paragraphs around their data and point of view and call it “thought leadership.”. I try to be a bit more honest and thoughtful than that. I think you deserve it. And it makes it more fun.

So, I thought a good way to introduce you to how I think and what you might see in this ongoing column here on IntrepidHR is to hit on some of the top engagement “truths” and give you a quick snapshot of my point of view.

Some of the sacred cows I’ll be addressing on an ongoing basis will include…

Recognition Drives Employee Engagement

Sort of. I don’t subscribe to the tidal wave of thought that tries to convince HR leaders that buying a slick system that allows people to do Peer2Peer recognition will solve their engagement problems. You, and your people, are smarter than that. In fact, bad recognition will cause more problems than no recognition. The reality is that recognition needs to be done in a specific way to really have value and automation isn’t the answer. Recognizing someone’s contribution is more than a pat on the back and more than an “attaboy/girl.” You can’t just slap some tech on your company reward strategy and expect success.

Engagement is HR’s Problem

Engagement is NOT HR’s problem. Read that again. Go get a tattoo of that. It has never been nor will it ever be HR’s problem. Engagement is the manager and the employee’s RESPONSIBILITY. That’s right. Engagement isn’t a problem to solve, it is a responsibility to take on. By both sides. You can’t have engagement without contributions from both parties. One-sided engagement efforts will create a spoiled mercenary workforce. Trust me on that. HR’s responsibility (not a problem) is to ensure their management staffs know how to engage with their own staff and how to have conversations and build plans around engagement.

More Feedback Is Better

Sorry – not on the “pulse” bandwagon. We aren’t doing a good job using the data we get now in organizations why would creating a huge pile of it be any better? It’s not just the sheer amount of data, but the timing of it. Ask yourself if it makes any sense to try to manage teams based on day-to-day data? That’s like trying to drive a car from New York to Los Angles looking three inches in front of your car the whole time. Pulse surveys are the worst management fad in a long time. Sorry. Sometimes reality has to get injected into the hype.

Engagement is a Real Measure

Yeah – I’ll go there. I realize there has been, and continues to, be a ton of time and treasure invested in the “engagement” world but I’m not sure yet there is any there, there.

We’ve been measuring engagement for 20 years and the overall number is pretty much the same. Some up and down movement – slight and slow – yet always settling back right at about 30%. Not to mention that sheer number of different definitions there are on what engagement actually is. How can you measure “engagement?” To me it’s like measuring love. Would you ever ask someone “on a scale of 1-100 how much do you love your mother?” Doesn’t make sense in that context and I don’t know if make sense in the engagement context either. I think there is a need to know how connected people are – but I’m not sure what the best measure is. Yet. All I know right now is the scores we’re all using to make decisions are too blunt and too inaccurate to be really be used for much. In my mind there are tons of other more reliable measures that could be created to measure employee/company connection. I won’t tell you what they are today. You’ll have to come back to read that in the future. Never give away everything in the first meeting right?

Stay Tuned – Stay Alert

As I continue to contribute here, I’ll riff on these and other elements of engagement. Not just employee engagement mind you, but engagement between employees and the outside world (ie: employer branding) and engagement between employees and various organizations the company needs to support its own operations – vendors, suppliers, distribution channel.

Engagement is a human thing and focusing on enhancing that engagement in all your business dealings is just smart… business.


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Paul Hebert is a writer, speaker and consultant focused on influencing behaviors and driving business results through employees, channel partners and consumers. Over the course of his career, Paul has worked closely with clients to design influence, marketing, motivation, incentive, loyalty, recognition and reward programs to increase effectiveness and reduce costs. Paul’s mission is to humanize the business relationships companies rely on to drive greater employee, channel and customer loyalty – and ultimately business results. He is dedicated to creating true emotional connections often overlooked in our automated, tech-enabled world. Through the use of proven motivational theory, behavioral economics and social psychology he has driven extraordinary company performance for his clients. Paul is widely considered an expert on motivation and incentives.