Engagement in the news in the UK


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.

Sometimes it’s the little things


One of our focuses at McBassi is measuring an organization’s “leadership environment.”  Key elements of a good leader include central “boss” responsibilities like successfully eliminating barriers that make it difficult for his/her employees to get work done well.

But it’s important to keep the little things in mind as well.  A recent WSJ article describes five signs you’re a bad boss.  Among them?  One word emails and failure to talk to employee face-to-face.

Life-saving analytics


Tough economic times typically result in an increase in violent crimes, including homicide.  But it turns out that despite the tough economy, homicides have fallen dramatically, with particularly notable decreases in the nation’s three largest cities: New York (down 79 percent from 1990 to 2009), Chicago and Los Angeles.

Why is this?  “Analysts say a range of factors have helped to tamp down violent crime. Among them: improved crime-mapping technology that has allowed police to deploy officers more efficiently at a time when many law enforcement resources are being directed toward anti-terror program.” 

This is an example of “human capital analytics” – using analysis to optimize the deployment of people in service of “organizational effectiveness.”  And this case, it also translates into saving lives.

Volunteering leads to better work performance


Interesting article today by Theresa Welbourne, who finds that company-sponsored volunteerism appears to lead to improved work performance, through an increase in volunteers’ energy levels at work.  (Employee energy helps to predict productivity, sales, customer service, etc.) 

Another example of companies doing well by doing good, even when it’s unlikely any work-related payoff was actually expected.

Equality and organizational health


In the NY Times, Nicholas Kristof discusses compelling evidence compiled by two well-known epidemiologists (Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson, The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger) about the relationship between a nation’s degree of income inequality and a wide array of societal and individual health indicators.

“There’s growing evidence,” Kristof writes, “that the toll of our stunning inequality is not just economic but also is a melancholy of the soul. The upshot appears to be high rates of violent crime, high narcotics use, high teenage birthrates and even high rates of heart disease.” 

This raises important questions about inequality and health at an organizational level as well.  To what extent does our propensity to pay CEOs and other senior executives so generously in relationship to the median (or lowest) paid employee create not just unhealthy employees, but also unhealthy organizations?

Hollywood, Twitter, and good sellers


One of the major themes of our new book Good Company is that multiple forces – including the power of social networking – are driving companies to become better employers, sellers, and stewards. 

Better sellers can be trusted to offer high-quality goods and services to their customers at fair prices.

Earlier this week, the New York Times explored a related phenomenon in the movie industry, noting that the avalanche of Twitter reviews seems to have ended the “era of using marketing to trick consumers into seeing bad movies.”

In short, movie studios are increasingly being driven to be better sellers – or closer to “good company,” in our parlance.

The importance of “group IQ”


The Boston Globe recently reported on a fascinating study by MIT professor Thomas Malone, who examined the relationship between a team’s problem-solving ability and the individual intelligence of team members.

He found that group intelligence is not strongly tied to either the average intelligence of the members or the team’s smartest member.  This is consistent with other recent findings that groups or teams have characteristics that are more than just the product or average of their members.

Among the other interesting findings:

  • Group motivation, satisfaction, and unity were also unimportant in determining group success.
  • Teams with high levels of “collective intelligence” tended to be those that were good at reading other people’s emotions
  • Groups with overbearing leaders did worse than those in which people took turns talking, with a more equal distribution of participation
  • Groups with a higher percentage of women also performed better (described as likely a result of their superior social sensitivity)

Lots of food for thought for organizations seeking to improve results.  Many have felt intuitively that teams are more than the sum of their parts (e.g., all the talk about the importance of locker room “chemistry” in professional sports); this study provides hard evidence that it’s not just a hunch.

Hitting the links


New links from around the web this week…

Human Capital Institute announces what it calls the world’s first award for innovation in human capital

London council will use measures of staff effectiveness as it considers how to allocate budget cuts

Hitting the links


A few new links from around the web…

Interesting analysis of the possible “brain drain” problem at Google, and lessons for your organization

Exploration of trends in HR costs (which are rising per-employee) and what that might mean

Workers’ holiday productivity has increased in recent years (reflection of the recession?)

The weekly links


A couple of interesting recent links from around the web…

(1) How data analytics can help make staffing decisions

(2) Interview with Thomas Davenport: are you ready to re-engineer your decision-making?