Friday, 3 April 2009

Creating value through employee engagement

 

    My last few posts have looked at what engagement is, and how to measure it.  But of course, the most important thing is how to develop it and use it to drive business success (creating value).

Creating value requires that people are put first, not just current business objectives.  Ie the energy for this comes from the outcome step of the HCM value chain, looking backwards at what activities will achieve these outcomes, and forwards to what business impacts will result – rather than starting with business impact and thinking about the activities and outcomes required to achieve these impacts.

Putting people first requires an acceptance that people have different engagement drivers, and are engaged in different ways, so we need to take account of these when we look to engage them.  This principle is fairly widely accepted now – but hasn’t always been.  I remember being quite shocked when I read the following statement in Watson Wyatt’s book, the Human Capital Edge:

 

Value for money through engagement

‘“Focus on the basics. People are more alike than different.” It seems counter-intuitive when researchers use detailed data to identify the unique factors that make people tick, but we suggest that companies stop looking so hard for differentiating factors. Over and over again we have seen organizations spending phenomenal amounts of money figuring out what their target employees (say, female Generation Xers) want, and then putting special program in place to attract them. In our view, this is a serious misallocation of resources. Because what those female GenXers want the most from the workplace is exactly what everyone else wants the most: pay for performance, opportunity, strong leadership, fairness. It is very difficult for companies to get those big things right, so they should place their resources where they do the most good.”

 

I think this approach is about providing value for money as it will help improve existing, basic methods of engagement, but won’t help achieve business objectives.

 

Adding value through engagement

An adding value approach takes particular organisational groups – by level, function etc, or particular employee demographics, and looks to support them in different ways in order to achieve certain business results.  It’s about adding value because the focus is on the business results, not the people themselves.  It’s still not getting to the heart of their engagement.

 

Creating value through engagement

Creating value requires that organisations treat people differently because of their own individual requirements, interests, perspectives etc.  This is the only way that they will be truly engaged, and therefore will be more likely to make a meaningfully substantial impact on their organisation.

It is still possible to take people together in groups, but these groups need to be formed using similar engagement drivers rather than organisational factors or traditional demographics (there’s an interesting post on this in the context of employer branding at Libby Sartain’s blog).

However, even better is to deal with each individual as an individual.

One obvious way of doing this is to talk to them, ask them about what gets them out of bed in the morning.  I participated in a conversation about this on David Zinger’s employee engagement ning recently.

I think the other way, which in my experience can work best, is to give people hints about the sorts of factors which may engage them (this approach also helps people understand the variety in the sorts of things which engage different people.  See for example, these two packs of engagement cards:

 

 

Photo credit: Ingolfson

 

 

 

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