Stop talking about what drives employee engagement – it’s about WHO drives it

Companies spend a lot of time measuring engagement (in fact, WAY too much time measuring and analyzing and not enough time acting in my opinion) and when it is all said and done, they focus on the data to make decisions about what strategies will positively impact employee engagement and performance.

It’s not a bad process.

Strategies such as management enablement, career development, recognition, benefits and compensation, and others become the focus after a company’s employee survey results. Then companies prioritize them, identify an approach, and find internal staff or a vendor to execute on the plan.

Still not a bad process.

There’s a gap, though. Several of these approaches are too often focused on WHAT the drivers of employee engagement and performance are, but not enough about WHO has the largest impact.

Companies need to put management and leadership at the center of their engagement strategy. Executives define the direction and strategies in organizations, but every-day employee behaviours are what fuels the realization of those strategies. Managers are the bridge between the two.  If you remove them from the system, it’s like removing a cog from a system… it falls apart.

 

OK, I get it. What should I do?

Maybe your managers aren’t really involved in your strategy today. Erase the idea of how you track and act on engagement today. Starting from scratch, void of roadblocks and other considerations, really helps keep your mind on what is possible, and necessary.

 

  1. Collect anonymous data in a way that will give you better insight – Unless you’re a Level-10 Excel Wizard, Survey Monkey isn’t going to cut it in terms of splitting data in a way that will offer insight. Ensure that you can pull data in real-time that will allow you slice data by your leadership team in a way that keeps anonymity. Think about what other insight would be important to you like location, department, or however else you prefer to gain insight.
  1. Don’t stop at quantitative data – HR and management can gain a lot of insight from open-ended questions. Make sure that’s a part of how you collect insight from your employees.
  1. Share engagement data to management – the insight from your engagement survey is very valuable for HR and executives, but serve that information to managers, don’t HR sugar-coat it. When managers get real-time access, they become accountable to their company and their team.
  1. Do it more often – Engagement data is like feedback for managers. Once a year or quarter isn’t enough. Do it monthly, at least. I’d suggest a weekly or bi-weekly pulse. Way easier to deal with smoke rather than fire. Believe me, if your managers are getting employee feedback weekly, they’ll keep an eye on it weekly.
  1. Keep managers accountable – When you serve information to managers, they’re accountable as opposed to HR mandating a process for them to attack low engagement. Many companies are taking it to the next level by making employee engagement a component of their leadership bonus.

 

Josh Bersin recently wrote in a Forbes article that “high-engagement companies understand that employees are the essence of products and services. They develop, deliver, and support what our customers experience every day.”  If you fundamentally believe that this is important, I would focus on what has the largest impact on retention and engagement of your employees: their direct relationship with their manager.

 

 


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

Author: Rob Catalano

Rob Catalano is passionate about helping companies succeed – by leveraging technology to make employees successful. With his unique experience in HR Technology as a founding employee at Achievers, Rob co-founded WorkTango – a platform that offers real-time employee insights and agile performance management that positively impacts alignment, accountability and engagement of employees. Rob has had the privilege to speak to in over 30 cities the past three years, and loves the opportunity to connect with passionate HR leaders across the globe. You can reach him at rob@worktango.io or @RobCatalano on twitter.

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