Most companies that measure employee engagement completely fail to get the maximum return on their investment. They measure for the wrong reasons. They don’t fully integrate the measurement and management process into the broader management strategies of the business. They only measure half of what they should be measuring – and they don’t do half the things they could do with the information they get.
In short, the majority of organisations that direct valuable financial and human resources into measuring and managing employee engagement get far from good outputs from the process… and they have no one to blame but themselves.
Peter Drucker once famously said “you can only manage what you measure.” This statement is correct, of course, but it’s also only reflective of half of the facts. In order to manage something you do need to measure it. But, in order for the measurement to be worthwhile, you need to know what it is that you’re measuring and why it is that you’re measuring it.
Failure to grasp this most simple of concepts leads to ‘measurement for measurements sake’ – the end result of which is a large number of leaders and managers reading engagement reports that mean nothing to them within the context of their day to day roles.
It might be nice to be given a number, depending on what that number is; but it’s far more helpful to be given business intelligence – irrespective of whether it’s good news or bad news. If it means something to you, at least you can do something about it.
The good news is that making the switch from data to actionable intelligence really isn’t that difficult. It just takes a little thought and five straightforward steps.
Step 1 – Understand the results desired by the organisation:
Measurement needs to take place within the context of the overall direction of the business. The first step in designing a meaningful employee engagement measurement and management process is therefore to understand the Vision, Mission and Strategy of the business. Questions to ask include:
– What future vision of the business are we working towards?
– What’s the overall plan (mission) for getting there?
– How does this plan translate into the desired objectives for the next few years?
Once this picture has been mapped out, the design and planning process can move to the next step.
Step 2 – Confirm the style and strategy the business intends on employing to execute on its vision and objectives:
Strategic style is very important because it sets the context within which the activity of all employees throughout a business can be directed, managed and measured. The three dominant styles are:
1. Customer Focus: requiring employees that value relationships and enjoy satisfying others
2. Operational Efficiency: requiring employees that like to be busy, make things happen and get things done
3. Product Innovation: requiring employees that like thinking, challenging old ideas, and pursuing the new and the different
Knowing your strategic style can be enormously powerful for an organisation in many ways. It is the foundation upon which all competitive advantage can be built. It guides decision making right throughout the business, impacting the strategies designed and deployed around technology, the use of money, and – most importantly in the context of this article – human resource management and mobilization.
Once the strategic style of the business is understood, a coherent strategy that is congruent with this style can be designed to deliver upon the desired objectives.
Once these two things are in place, the employee engagement measurement and management process can move to step three.
Step 3 – Identify the capabilities required by the organisation to execute upon this strategy:
The “capabilities required by the organisation” refers directly to its ‘abilities’ to manage and leverage its available resources. These resources include money, technology and people. As with strategic style, these capabilities are one of the primary sources of competitive advantage an organisation has. As a result, each business must be clear on what these styles and capabilities are, and then do everything within its power to optimise these to its advantage.
The design of a highly functioning employee engagement measurement and management process requires absolute clarity on the capabilities an organisation requires from its people.
For example, a business with a style of Operational Efficiency needs managers who are activity focused and will do what it takes to meet targets. They need people who have industry expertise, high levels of achievement orientation, and enjoy being highly disciplined.
Armed with this information, a business can begin to set the parameters for measurement in its employee engagement survey. This will ensure that the design of the survey collects information relevant to these facts, as well as setting the context for the analysis of the data that emerges.
By this stage, a business will have a clear understanding of the desired results, the strategy for achieving these results, and the abilities needed to execute on this strategy. With this information an employee engagement measurement and management process can begin to take shape as the first half of the picture is almost complete – understanding what an organisation requires from its employees.
Step 4 – Test and validate what an organisation requires from employees
The things that an employer needs from its employees are broadly classified into three areas:
– Behaviours – how people do what they need to do
– Skills – the expertise they need to bring to their role
– Commitment – the hours they need to work to do their job and how they are expected to apply themselves
Once those running the business are in clear agreement on what they require from their employees they will have half the necessary information to build the perfect employee engagement measurement and management process. This information is not necessary to tailor the design of a survey (a common but mistaken assumption). It is required to act as the lens through which the data is converted to business intelligence once the survey is completed.
The design and planning process now needs to begin to understand what employees require from the business in order to ‘come to the party’ with respect to their behaviours, skills and commitment.
Step 5 – Be absolutely clear on the wants, needs and fears of ALL of your employees:
If you want your employees to passionately execute on your business strategy, you must fully understand what motivates and drives them. This is another part of the process where many businesses go wrong.
There is a myth propagated in the employee engagement measurement industry that everyone wants the same thing. These are called the Universal Drivers of Engagement. Everyone wants an effective leader, a safe workplace, and to be treated with respect. The problem is that whether your business delivers these things or not completely misses a significant piece of the puzzle. Employees are Human Beings. They’re complicated, unique and prone to want different things. To assume anything else is foolhardy, and most engagement surveys implicitly assume exactly this.
To truly understand the wants, needs and fears of your employees you need to examine their individual Motivational Drivers. Where one employee wants a fast paced environment with lots of variety, another might prefer a slower pace and the ability to focus on only one thing at a time.
To build the perfect employee engagement survey you therefore simply have to design a mechanism that captures how the business is doing against these two measures. Is the business meeting the ‘general needs’ of the employees? Is it seeking to understand and manage each employee based on what gets them (and specifically them) fired up and jumping out of bed? Only when a business can claim to be doing both of these things can it claim to have a sufficient understanding of its employees.
When a business intimately understands its own strategy and context, and what this means in terms of its requirements from its people, it has half the necessary information. When the same business understands the needs of all employees, both collectively and individually, it has the other half of the puzzle. Combined, this information allows a business to do two things:
1. Build an HR strategy that perfectly (rather than loosely) aligns the needs of the business with the needs of its employees
2. Design an employee engagement measurement and management process that significantly contributes towards delivering exceptional business results
Understanding how to perfectly align what your business wants from its people with what your people want in return is an enormously powerful piece of information.
Now, instead of an employee engagement measurement and management process based on assumptions about the general needs of all employees, and conducted in abstraction from the real and current needs of the business, the organisation gets something completely different.
Businesses that seek to understand what they are measuring and why they are measuring it can analyse the data that emerges from a survey far more robustly. This allows them to turn lots of numbers in to actionable business intelligence. It allows them to prioritise what emerges within the context of what they are trying to achieve. It allows them to focus and take action.
Add to this focus the exponential power of broadly understanding what engages your employees and what individually motivates each and every one; and the return on investment for employee engagement surveying will take a big step up.
That is, of course, assuming you have the right process in place to move from results to taking immediate, real and tangible action…