Employee Engagement Expert Advice – Interview with Rob Catalano

Rob CatalanoRob Catalano is passionate about helping companies succeed by leveraging technology to make employees successful.  As a founding employee, Rob spent the past 10-years at Achievers, leading Marketing and the company’s global expansion in three different countries until its acquisition last year. With his unique experience in HR Technology, Rob co-founded WorkTango – a platform that helps managers build authentic relationships and trust with their employees and teams.

With only a couple weeks until the Employee Engagement (EE) Awards & Summit, Rob took some time to share his insights and experience with employee engagement. For more information about the EE Awards & Summit, visit the event site.

HR Gazette: What does employee engagement mean to you?

Rob: I’ll start with what it doesn’t mean to me… it isn’t what you DO to employees. Employee engagement is an outcome. An outcome of the environment that is created for employees that align them to the greater purpose of the company so that they feel a part of something bigger than their personal role.

HR Gazette: What are your three tips for companies looking to drive engagement in their organisations?

Rob: Understand what impact you want to see and set up mechanisms to track them.  For example, if you want to see an impact on customer satisfaction from a group of engaged versus disengaged employees, are you set up to measure that?  You’ll need to justify your efforts and investments.

Involve all employees, especially managers. Your managers are key in bridging the gap between the strategic narrative of the company and ensuring that every employee is aligned.  Having everyone involved is also as important as having a respected executive sponsor that can be an advocate of the engagement efforts.

It isn’t one initiative that will get you there – that may offer a sugar rush of engagement that won’t last.  Rather it’s a long-term commitment that requires thoughtful planning and execution.

HR Gazette: What do you feel are the biggest pitfalls that companies should avoid when executing their engagement strategy?

Rob: Companies that forget to involve managers in their strategy will find it challenging to be successful.  Engagement is about involving every employee and managers are key to make that happen.  If managers are involved in understanding the focus and the direction, they will be a consistent voice to each employee and offer feedback of how these initiatives impact employees.

Another pitfall is that companies don’t stick with their strategy. Too often, squeaky wheels put doubt in initiatives and companies stop them. Change will ruffle a few feathers, and that’s ok.  No company is going to have 100% buy-in and engagement.

HR Gazette: Why do employees fail to buy-in when companies try to ramp up engagement?

Rob: Just like you can’t force culture, you can’t force employee engagement.  If the environment is created, engaged employees is possible. Again, I’ll reinforce that you don’t DO employee engagement to people, it is a narrative and an environment that builds engaged employees.

HR Gazette: What skills are most useful for everyone to have when trying to move towards a culture of engagement?

Rob: Resiliency – anything new is hard. There will be push-back and a percentage of unhappy people. Remember that it is for the whole company, and people resisting shouldn’t discourage you. People resist change as a natural reaction, it takes time to make a new approach become the norm.

HR Gazette: You are a judge for the North American 2016 Employee Engagement Awards. What will you be looking for in entries?

Rob: I’ll be looking for a genuine display of effort by the company focused on creating an environment where employees thrive and love their experience at work. I’ll also be looking at the impact of efforts: what are their business results? Customer satisfaction scores? Are there any improvements to company metrics that have resulted from having engaged employees all focused on one vision? The real test is the business impact.

More about WorkTango

With twenty collective years in HR-Technology, Rob and Nadir gained a unique view into what makes employees engaged and organizations performing. They built a fundamental belief that nothing impacts successful employees more than managers and set course on building WorkTango to make managers better. Why? Because when managers are at the top of their game, the employees and organizations see positive results.

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