Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Employee Engagement – We Need A New Paradigm!

The New Face of Employment

Ok, recent surveys tell us that Employee Engagement is at an all time low at about 30%.  So what are we going to do about it?  Apparently what we have been doing isn’t working!

Firstly, what’s the source of such dissatisfaction?  Well, us.  Managers.  We have worked for decades to destroy engagement.  We said that we wanted to eliminate “employee entitlement” and replace it with “performance.”  We took a lot of hygiene off the table like: merit pay, defined benefit pension plans, and health benefits.  These were replaced with: pay for performance, defined contribution pension plans, and cost sharing for health benefits.

Unfortunately, what we perceived as “entitlement” had one major benefit.  It relieved employees of economic worry and let them focus on their work.  To the extent possible, “entitlement” let people bring themselves into their jobs.  It gave them the autonomy to find purpose in their work.  It let employees feel engaged.

Those days are gone.  Most businesses are not going to build the economic safety net back into their cost structures.  Employee disengagement is here to stay.  We created it, now we have to manage it.  Here are some things we should start thinking about if we are to build a new paradigm.

Reduce the Economic Worry:
Encourage people to constantly look for and interview for new job opportunities.  Support them in their search.  One of two things will happen: they will either learn how good they’ve got it with you, or you will learn that you are under-valuing them.

Rethink how you compensate.  Kill the performance pay experiment; it hasn’t worked.  Get back to solid pay that is marked to the market and then share profits. 

Delink performance appraisal from pay.  Use it for development only.

Stratify Employee Engagement:
Stop focusing on the 30% figure and focus where it matters.  

The veterans in your workforce are likely engaged; whereas new entrants aren’t.  Let’s be clear.  Recruits from the “social media generation” are going to be difficult to engage.  Most aren’t looking to be engaged in a career; they’re looking for an experience over a short time horizon.  Accommodate where you can, but don’t lose sleep if there is low engagement and high churn.

Your focus has to be on that sliver of talent that understands your company’s DNA and wants to carry the gene forward.  Learn what it takes to engage them.

Communicate Tough Love:
Employees offer their unique gifts when they have purpose at work; however, purpose comes from principles.  What are the principles of your business?  How do you expect employees to act?  How do you expect them to treat each other and their customers?

There are rules of the game.  People are judged when they are at work.  Employees have a responsibility to engage themselves.  Tell them what is expected, and hold them accountable until they accept the responsibility.

Enable Idea Generation:
Everyone has ideas, that's the nature of being human.  You need to create a culture of ideas; a place where everyone feels free to express their thoughts; and a place where thoughts can get filtered through the organization and implemented.

Not all ideas are good ideas; and not all good ideas get implemented; however, all ideas have value even though their time may not be right.

Let Customers Drive Engagement:
Companies have eroded their commitment to employees, and employees know it.  Employees don’t work for their company any more.  We need to give them a new purpose.  They want to be valued and customers provide it.  We need to create a short line of sight between employees and customers and then we need to get out of the way.

I have a concern that high employee disengagement will result in a backlash.  For years I have watched companies become “kinder and gentler” in an attempt to increase employee engagement.  It hasn’t worked.  I dread that, out of exasperation, management will return to harsher models of command and control.  

We must avoid this.  We must find a new paradigm for employee engagement.  We must start implementing what others, such as Daniel Pink are teaching.

1 comment:

  1. build off constant it or paper measurement of certain aspects of performance, and totally forgetting about the essentials while enhancing concurrence and conflict