Evolution of Engagement – Part I
Posted by Amy Wilson on November 22, 2007
Science and Measurement
Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and talking about employee engagement – the growing recognition of its importance, organizational efforts to harness the competitive differentiator, and the emerging tools and technologies that can be leveraged to accelerate it.
I like this topic because for the first time in a long time I’m able to carry on a conversation about my work with friends and family “not in the industry.” For example, I was recently speaking with a friend of mine who runs her own graphic arts company. She quickly caught on to the topic and its importance despite the fact that she has never worked for anyone nor really had anyone work for her. She was able to think back to her one failed attempt at hiring – a summer intern who was engaged more in surfing and sleeping late than coming to work and serving clients.
It’s a universal topic that just makes sense to people and I’m thrilled that there is now science to back it up. Even better,In addition, leading organizations I speak to are doing something about it.
In my opinion, Deloitte really kicked off this trend toward fact-based engagement research. In their 2004 study, “Do you know where your talent is?” Deloitte brought attention to the fact that organizations were too focused on acquisition and retention and not focused enough on what really matters to employees – developing capabilities and working on meaningful initiatives. Organizations still (and should) care about acquisition and retention, but if they focus on what matters to people, they will attract and keep them. Attraction and retention are byproducts of engagement. Thus, if you measure and react to acquisition and retention metrics, it is too late – these are trailing indicators. Instead, organizations need to measure engagement levels; this will in turn allow them to predict and adjust not only turnover, but also top line performance indicators.
So, how does one measure engagement? There are a number of methodologies available to organizations. The general guideline is to pick a methodology and execute well as Mark mentions in his earlier post. I am impressed with Gallop’s Q12 methodology laid out in the book “12: The Elements of Great Managing.” Gallop conducted more than 10 million workplace interviews, creating a massive database of hard evidence. They have identified 12 precision statements that best connect employee engagement to business success.
The truly distinguishing thing about these measurements is what organizations are doing with them. Many of the leading organizations I speak with have found that it is not enough to conduct engagement surveys, track the results, and compare to industry standards (which most do). Most have found that it is the follow-up action which is most important. In many cases, organizations set up task forces that cross functional boundaries. Others make particular leaders accountable for improving engagement levels. In both execution strategies, the organization is setting measurable goals and people are held accountable.
Organizations are also trending toward making this information public – acknowledging weakness and exhibiting an effort to get better. This is a leadership strategy outlined by Marshall Goldsmith in his book “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.” Though Goldsmith’s strategy is designed for individuals, I see the application to organizations as well. You may have been a good organization in the past, but to be a great organization in the future, you need to ask how you can do better and then show that you are doing better.