Never mistake activity for achievement. – John Wooden
UK-based HR strategy consultant Kevin Ball takes a hard look at organizations’ focus on employee engagement in his “People Matters” blog, concluding that engagement surveys create “busy fools through the illusion of activity which has no bearing on what the organisation is trying to achieve.”
Remarkably, at almost at the same time, the UK government announced its support for a new “Employee Engagement Task Force,” with Prime Minister David Cameron noting his expectation that the task force will help in “delivering sustainable growth across the UK.”
Attention to any people management topic at the highest levels of government is almost certainly a good thing, and we hope that the task force will look broadly at questions like the relationship between people management and organizational outcomes. Based on the initial language around the task force launch, however, that may not be very likely.
The answer is YES, according to Ante Glavas, a professor at the University of Notre Dame. He’s leading a research project called “Business for the Greater Good.”
The project has found that “sustainability’s greatest impact is on employees who work for green companies,” with productivity rates in such companies up to 40 percent higher due to more profitably engaged employees (even if what they’re doing is shoveling manure at “green” dairies).
More engaged, more productive, and more sustainable. Who couldn’t get behind that?
Finding the “sweet spot” – the intersection between more profitable and more enlightened management and development of people – is work worth doing. It’s what we’re doing every day with our clients.
A recent article in Psychology Today does a nice job of differentiating employee engagement from business results. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that it also references our recent Talent Management article on the subject.)
It suggests that, given the general lack of evidence on the relationship between engagement and the bottom line, employers might be wise to reduce their heavy focus on engagement.
Instead, in light of evidence they cite that “productivity was enhanced in workplaces where daily occurrences that bring about joy, interest, and caring that lead to high level of bonding of individuals to each other,” they suggest that oganizations should instead incorporate current employee engagement efforts into a broader strategy of enhancing employee well-being at work.
Great post on the Fistful of Talent blog yesterday, exploring the link between employee engagement and workplace processes. The post discusses a quote from Steve Church, Chief Operational Excellence Officer at Avnet:
“If you help employees fix broken process, you’ll gain employee engagement.”
We couldn’t agree more. And we’re always delighted to encounter perspectives in which employee engagement is tied to work elements that directly affect an organization’s bottom line.
The HR profession has bought into psychologists’ construct of employee engagement – hook, line and sinker. And that, in my view, helps to keep the HR profession stuck where it is – hoping for, but not earning, the elusive “seat at the table.”
At its core, engagement really has little, if anything, to do with how work gets done and results get produced in an organization. And so when HR professionals focus (obsess) on measuring it, they do so at the expense of more critical items such as work processes, social learning, the quality of the hiring process, and accountability.
In “Debunking Employee Engagement Myths,” an article just published in Talent Management, Dan McMurrer and I dive into these ideas in detail, and lay out the research that has shaped our thinking on this issue.
We expect to take some flak for this perspective, but hope also to do some good in the process. We’d love to hear your thoughts!