Wednesday, July 24, 2013

How Do You Measure Employee Engagement?

Engagement is the term du jour for helping a bunch of us sell HR programs to HR departments.  But what really is employee engagement?  How do you measure it and how accurate is that measurement?

I've been in this biz for around 10 years and it always means something different to everyone with whom I speak.  To be honest, that's the way it should be.  Every organization has different values, culture, mission statements, and objectives with regard to their people, therefore their engagement strategy should reflect their organizational strategy.

However, per my last post, most companies put a people strategy in place because they know they have to.  Why is this the case?  Because organizations with employees that are considered "highly engaged" appreciate higher business performance.  So the question begs, "how do I know if my employees are engaged and how do I identify who needs help and who needs to be recognized for their outstanding performance?"

Surveys and KPI's, right?  Wrong.  If 100% of you employee population answers a survey 100% honestly...then you might have something with regard to how they feel about working for your company.  And if, for example, 100% of your top sales people are team players, and give back to the community, and collaborate internally, and take all the suggested training, and contribute to knowledge transfer, and effectively recognize everyone who helped them succeed, etc, etc.....and you could measure this in aggregate, then you would really be able to answer the question in the last paragraph.

But who does this?

Some organizations have tried to cobble together some of this information and do their best to measure and engage with their employees in this fashion, but many companies have also just slapped down a "big honkin' recognition website" with all kinds of bells and whistles (which employees rarely utilize...especially after the honeymoon period)...and call it done.

In the day an age of apps, and cloud and API's (look it up) so much more can be done to truly identify who in your company is really getting it done, who needs help, and even who is just posing.

Many companies have been seeking out this "fountain of youth" as diligently as Ponce de Leon, but few seem able to discover the best way to truly gauge overall employee engagement.  ITAGroup, however, has found a way to do this almost accidentally.  The development of a cloud-based piece of software to help one of our clients consolidate all of their incentive spend resulted in a powerful way to build a profile of anyone in your participant base.

I won't go into details, but this relatively simple piece of software has enabled organizations to collect data from all of their important employee-facing initiatives (Job Performance, Contribution, Personal Growth, Culture, etc...) into a single repository.  Big data is great, right?

What then do you do with all this data?

Well you prioritize and valuate each of the data segments, let the data pour in, and end up with an overall employee score.  Simple.  The ability to get a true picture of overall employee engagement in your organization's initiatives can be so valuable.  Not only will overall employee scores give you a truer picture of an employee's actual value to your organization, it will teach you about which attributes are leading indicators of performance, as well as where more development is required.

The best part is that you don't need to remove any of your current platforms or programs, you just need to hook up the data hose (API).  Why try to build one monstrous, expensive, complicated site, when you can just use the information you already have?

This solution may not meet all the measurement criteria of employee engagement as defined by organizations like TowersWatson or Gallup, but I'm sure you'll agree that this concept beats the heck out of an employee sat survey as your main source of information regarding employee engagement.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Walking the Walk

As I prepared for a meeting to discuss employee recognition and engagement with a customer, I turned to a couple of thought leaders in this being WorldatWork's 2013 Trends in Employee Recognition survey summary, the other was Gallup's summary on 2012 "State of the American Workplace" regarding employee engagement.  What I found, didn't completely surprise me, but something wasn't adding up.

According to WorldatWork, 88% of the companies surveyed have at least one formalized employee recognition program in place (and most have more than one)...that would seem like a pretty impressive number, but it also indicates that there are 12% of the companies out there that don't give a hoot about recognizing their employees...just imagine what the 12%'s benefit package looks like...ugh!  

Although an employee recognition program does not "define" the employee condition at an organization, the inclusion or exclusion of one does give you an idea of how that organization feels about it's employees.  So to that 12% out need to start evaluating the message you are sending to your most valuable resource.

And based on the statistic that 88% of the companies out there have a recognition program in place, you would assume that the level of employee engagement would be fairly high, right?  Well according to  Gallup's "State of the American Workplace" report, 70% of the 25 million employees they have surveyed over the last 12 years state they are either "not engaged" or "actively disengaged". 

Wha?!?!  Are you kidding me?!?!  That almost sounds depressing.  No...actually it is depressing.  70% of the American workforce doesn't care about the job they are doing or are actually actively trying to sabotage the work that is being done.  It's estimated that active disengagement costs the U.S. between $450B & $550B annually.  OOF!

To summarize...88% of companies are trying to connect with their employees, but 70% remain disengaged.  How do you even attempt to minimize this trend?

Well...first try to truly understand the engagement level of your employees, so you can determine who to reach and how (stay tuned...I've got some interesting ideas about how to do this, and will elaborate in my next blog post).  And for God's sake...communicate, communicate, communicate!  If no one knows why these programs are in place, where to find them (make it simple) or how they work, you've created the most expensive engagement programs out there...those that don't work.

Secondly, don't just implement an employee engagement initiative and check it off your list.  It needs to be a living, breathing organism within your organization.  It needs to change as your company and employee population changes.  What worked 5 or 10 years ago, won't work today.  Understanding who your employees are and where they live will give you the ticket for the engagement train.  Technology is an amazing enabler these days!!!

Lastly, make it meaningful.  This comes in all forms.  Some companies measure it, some companies handsomely reward it, and some companies do both.  Choose one, two or all of the above...but for cryin' out loud, don't do nothing (nice double negative, huh?)

The companies that put programs in for program's sake are missing the boat completely.  There are tons of resources out there that can teach you about effective recognition and numerous organizations that specialize in helping you execute.

Now I realize that focusing on recognition programs and relating them to overall employee engagement is a stretch at best.  My main point in this post is that recognition is a key component in the overall employee experience and that how your organization approaches it possibly translates to how you execute your people strategy.

Do yourself a favor...invest in your people now, before the economy really takes off and it ends up being too late.  Walk the walk...

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Let's Get This Started

It all started with a simple conversation over a beer at Schroeders downtown SF.  I was chatting with a former colleague from who, a couple years prior, was SFDC's top sales rep.  I won't mention the size of his bonus check (7 figures), but I must say there is a lot you can do with that much cash.

So I asked him, "What special things did you do with all that money?" and was not surprised when he struggled to share or identify one special thing he bought or experienced with this new found wealth.  Instead, he started waxing poetic about the trip to Hawaii that SFDC awarded him, and how he was on the top tier of the trip and how he and his wife got to go to Tiffany's and pick out any item they wanted and how all the other wive's on the trip elbowed their husbands in the ribs exclaiming that the trip to Tiffany's next year better include them.

That, my friends, is just one example of the power of tangible and experiential awards.

Earlier in the evening my buddy was adamant about the driving force of cash and that trips and gifts were just the icing on top of the cake.   Yet, when I asked him about how the trip to Hawaii made him "feel" and reminded him about the duration of time he spent talking about his experience vs. his struggle to remember what he's done with the cash, he had a revelation..."You should write a blog about this stuff!" I've started a blog.  Am I the smartest person on this subject?  NO!  But I do believe in it.  I was skeptical when I started working in the "incentive space", but having experienced it personally for the last 10 years and hearing countless stories from others, it's hard not to believe.

But it's more than believing...research has actually proven these principles of behavioral economics which I will address in later posts.  In the meantime, I'll try to figure out how to make this thing fun, engaging, valuable or just a good read.