And does it matter?
I read an interesting article the other day in which the author lamented the fact that despite the strength of the business case for employee engagement and the publicity around the Engage for Success movement, many of the senior and middle managers she works with still have little understanding of what engagement is all about. On top of that, she adds that many of the HR people she comes across believe that engagement is something that can be done through specific initiatives led by HR.
I think she hits the nail on the head. Engagement is not about specific initiatives (though some might help); it’s about the way we lead,manage and involve people, and how we align their attitudes and behaviours with business goals. It’s a crucial performance issue which will go nowhere without the full support and advocacy of leaders and managers throughout the business.
Therefore, for those of us that champion the cause of engagement, perhaps we should tailor our efforts to senior operating managers rather than HR practitioners, and base our case on the hard-nosed financial benefits of having engaged people, rather than on abstract concepts and definitions that are often far removed from the language of day-to-day operations.
If engagement adopts the language of business and performance and is embraced by the right people it will make a big difference. If it doesn’t it runs the risk of withering and dying as just another fad.
Using employee engagement surveys to raise the HR profile
Back in May of last year one of my blogs referred to an influential report which suggested that “…the fate of HR departments in the year ahead may hinge more on proving their value than maximising their contribution.”
Nearly twelve months down the line Neil Roden of PwC, one of the profession’s most senior figures, has resurrected the issue claiming that “…The quality of HR senior leadership is declining” and the profession is losing influence. The reason, he says, is that “Not a lot of HR people do much on metrics and analytics, despite the fact that we all know that’s how most chief executives and chief finance officers think”.
And nowhere is that truer than in my area of expertise – employee engagement surveys. All too often the HR mindset seems to preclude a systematic approach to linking employee attitudes and behaviours with people performance metrics and key business outcomes; in some instances it seems to recoil at the very prospect. But when it does happen the results can be truly transformational: the survey becomes a vital business tool and HR quickly assumes a new and compelling relevance at the heart of the business.
Of course many companies have long understood the importance of metrics and analytics. Neil Roden quotes General Electric and in recent blogs I’ve referred to Marks and Spencer and Mitchells and Butler. Not surprisingly they all tend to be leaders in their fields.
This blog draws particularly from the following article in our Resource Centre:
“Quality of HR senior leadership is declining”, says Neil Roden – Rob MacLachlan, People Management
Can Employee Engagement Survey Data be Used to Manage Staff Turnover?
We can’t be sure when but we can be sure that at some point in the not too distant future the British economy will start to emerge from its long hibernation. When it does it will be interesting to see what impact growth and renewed confidence have on the employment market.
It has been said many times that companies that have handled re-organisation and redundancies with sensitivity and focused on engaging their people are likely to retain their key players. Those that have used the spectre of redundancy to justify ever increasing demands while giving less in return are likely to haemorrhage talent.
This raises the perennial question: how can companies, regardless of their people policies, best understand and manage staff turnover. In most cases the answer is either the exit interview or the leavers’ survey. Both have their value but both have limitations. It’s often said that some employees will be less than truthful in an exit interview, and to a lesser degree that’s also an issue with leavers’ surveys. On top of that, while both approaches might help us to understand why people leave they seldom tell us anything about the journey that led to that decision.
However, recent research suggests that there is an alternative to exit interviews and leavers’ surveys; one which does enable us to track that journey, profile leavers and predict staff turnover. At its heart is a detailed analysis of employee engagement survey data which enables us to a) identify the point at which the attitudes and behaviours of leavers begin to diverge from those of their colleagues and b) develop profiles for specific categories of leaver.
These insights do not necessarily help companies to deal with the immediate triggers behind the decision to leave but they do help them pinpoint the policies, practices and behaviours which lead to disaffection over time.
For further reading download our latest research paper:
“Using Survey Data to Predict Staff Turnover”