6 Reasons Employee Engagement Scores Are Vanity Metrics vs. Real Analytics

Businesses and their HR teams have measured employee engagement as a way of trying to improve business performance. Millions have been spent conducting engagement surveys, and their follow on programs, targeting areas that measure low in employee engagement. It can be satisfying to see reports that highlight areas in the organization with and without engagement.

Engagement reports often provide a false sense of control that engagement, training and other employee development programs will lead to an increase in actual, real business performance.

It seems that executives and their HR teams, at the highest levels, have bought into the myth that high engagement leads to high performance. I say myth, because I can name on one hand the number of companies that have done their own research proving this connection.

What follows are 6 reasons businesses need to stop using employee engagement as a measure of business success.

1. Employee Engagement isn’t the Goal. Business performance is the goal
Most businesses don’t, and can’t, tie employee engagement results to an increase in business performance. Engagement programs can sometimes show an increase in engagement, after a program, but not an increase in actual performance. Employee engagement is a middle measure. No company exists to have engaged employees. Businesses exist to perform.

2.  Justifying Any Kind of Program Based on Someone Else’s Research is a Less Than Rigorous Business Practice
Most engagement programs mention someone else’s research (either from a vendor selling employee engagement solutions, an article from an industry though leader purporting to show a connection to real performance,) showing a tie between engagement and shareholder value. You need to read beyond the headlines. Most of the “performance” has been gathered from interviews with senior leadership about their impressions vs. looking at actual performance.

For actual businesses that published some research early on, those copying need to realize that these other companies had a particular engagement issue, in a particular industry, with their own particular culture, selling their own particular solutions at a particular time in their evolution. Jumping to the global conclusion that engagement activities will have the same impact for your firms is a massive, risky and very expensive leap.

3. Rigorous Analytics Often Show Little or No Solid Correlation Between High Engagement and an Increase in Business Performance or a Decrease in Turnover
Take the real example of a large software firm who implemented an employee engagement program for their entire organization. Engagement scores among their sales team were over 90%. They grew their brand to be one of the best brands to work for. They were the # 1 software firm to work for within a large region of the US (5 years in a row).

Yet, they also had close to 80% annual turnover and sales were plummeting. Engagement programs definitely increased engagement. People loved to work there, but they weren’t performing. Engagement is a middle measure. Engagement is different than real business performance.

Continue reading….

First published on HR Tech World by Greta Roberts


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of The HR Gazette or its team members.
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