Employee engagement is not a silver bullet. It is not the “wonder pill” that will magically transform a failing or floundering organization into a profit-making powerhouse. Honestly, there is really nothing out there like that. Really. Nothing.
Employee engagement is one of the most powerful tools to drive organizational performance as a part of an overall strategy. It is and can never be the answer. For too long, consulting companies have sold employee engagement as the pathway to understand all that ails them and lead them to the promised land of high performance. Those companies have not been honest.
In the seminal book about Employee Engagement, “First Break All the Rules” Curt Coffman and Marcus Buckingham outlined a method to understand the gap between current and high performance. It was a powerful measuring tool. But, just like the MRI, CatScan and EKG, it can only read the issues. It can not fix or even really diagnose. There is not one part of the employee engagement toolbox that can improve organizational performance by itself. Not one.
THE THREE BIG REASONS EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT ISN’T WORKING FOR YOU
1. “DOING ENGAGEMENT” AS A SEPARATE INITIATIVE.
Survey, manager training, action planning…the mantra of employee engagement. Focus on these things, empower your managers and poof your organization will magically be transformed. Uh, no that is an epic fail in the realm of organizational change.
• Managers aren’t natural students. They aren’t going to learn about engagement if it doesn’t help them NOW. Manager want information that will impact their team’s performance and help them reach their goals. Doing action plans without a tie to the organization is not going to work.
• Managers are BUSY and if engagement is handled this way it is just another thing to do. Put at the bottom of the 1,000 item long to do list.
2. EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT SURVEYS ARE NOT ACTIONABLE
Unfortunately, many survey questions that are asked on surveys are not actionable by managers and team leaders.
“My senior leaders model the behaviors in our corporate values” – Excellent question and gives great information for a senior leader. But what difference does that make to an employee. How will it make their life at work better? In short, it won’t.
Engagement questions should be thought provoking and interesting. But they MUST be able to impacted by the front line manager. If they can’t have an impact it leads to them being frustrated and employees not seeing any impact of giving their input.
3. THERE IS NO OVERALL STRATEGY TO WEAVE ALL THE “PEOPLE INITIATIVES” INTO A COHESIVE PLAN. WORST OF ALL, NONE OF THEM TIE TO ORGANIZATIONAL GOALS.
Career development – great for employees’ growth
High potential program – excellent way to prepare for future leadership
Employee engagement – superior measure of employee passion
Each of these programs are outstanding. They enable a well developed workforce that is poised to take on new challenges and step up when leadership needs require…if that is what your organization needs. The starting place for any new employee/people program initiative should be –
• What is the goal of this?
• How does it tie to our current or future business/organizational goals.
• How does tho fit into our already existing “people programs”
Programs that are initiated without some tie to improving organizational goals will be seen as “busy work” or will be put on the very very bottom of the list of to-do’s.
If people programs are not woven together they can’t be leveraged to make cumulative goals. If they aren’t integrated they can be confusing for managers to explain, hard for employees to use and expensive for the organization to run (duplication of effort and excessive bureaucracy).
Employee engagement as a part of an overall strategy tied to business goals can be very powerful. Engagement done on an island can cause more problems than solve. Which one is your organization doing?
Anil Saxena is the President of Cube 2.14, an organizational development consulting firm that works with clients to increase both customer and employee engagement while decreasing turnover, improving customer retention, and increasing profitability within organizations.
Saxena is a certified High Impact coach and trainer and a Joint Application Design facilitator. He is also certified by both Rush Systems and IBM as a focus group facilitator. He is an inaugural member of Northwestern University’s Learning and Organizational Change program, and he earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology.