Monday, 6 July 2015

Symposium Events - Analytics for Employee Engagement




My own presentation at Symposium Events' Critical HR Analytics conference was on Engagement.  The topic was Symposium's suggestion but I was happy to respond, having recently contributed along with Dave Ulrich to this article in HR Magazine about new engagement tools.

And understanding engagement, like lots of things in HR, is increasingly about smart use of tools and technologies.

Rather that just list the tools mentioned in the article (though I have added to them) I attempted to use the levels of value in the value triangle (see my last post) to help explain how organisations can best use all these different tools.  I think this is important as the consequence otherwise is likely to be one of two things, neither of which are helpful!
  • Either we pick tools at random.  For example I hear a lot of claims these days that we don't need to run engagement surveys any more as we can either just do mini pulse surveys or rely on semantic analysis of our enterprise social networks.  But actually whilst these tools are useful, it's important that we understand they're not direct alternatives to an engagement survey, they're complementary to this, acting at different levels of value.
  • Or, we just add more and more tools to our portfolio of measures.  This tends not to give us any more insight and reduces the chance that we'll see the real signal in all of the additional noise.


The key to making best use of the available tools, in engagement, and in other areas of HR, isn't about understanding the levels of value in the technologies (though this is important), or in the data and analytics, but in the attributes we want to understand ie the type of engagement.

This is why I used Gary Hamel's triangle about different types of engagement on slide 5.

As I explained in my last post, if we're tying to measure the sorts of things that will give us value for money at the bottom of the triangle - eg compliance, diligence and obedience, we'll probably be able to get lots of objective, reliable data, and can use appropriate analytical tools to explore these.  Eg this is where big data fits in.

And as I explained at the conference, the main issue with value for money big data is the trust factor - that employees probably won't want you using their data.  The key here of course is therefore to give the data to them.  So I like the idea of I am Not a Widget (which I cam across in the comments to the HR Magazine article.)

In contrast, when we're dealing with Creating Value at the top of the triangle - eg passion and pride, creativity and zeal, we're more likely to need qualitative measures, and richer types of analytics and tools that help us understand these things.  Nick Kemsley talked about this at the conference suggesting that strategic workforce planning would involve qualitative measures a bit like is often the case in marketing.  So the best thing to do is to go and talk to people.

That's true in employee engagement too. Focus groups still have a lot of value, particularly before or after an engagement survey.

But you can get similar levels of creating value insight from social recognition tools like Workstars (which sponsors this blog,) or from tools like Alan Watkins' Universe of Emotions (which he demonstrated at Changeboard's conference recently) or Michael Silverman's tool from Unilever (links are in the slideset.)


In summary, the tool we pick to use needs to depend upon the insight we're trying to create, which will depend upon the type of data we can access or generate, which depends upon the way we're trying to engage our staff.  Understand the value of this and the rest follows.


  • Consulting   Research  Speaking  Training  Writing
    Strategy  - Talent - Engagement  - Change and OD  
    Contact me to create more value for your business 
    jon [dot] ingham [at] strategic [dash] hcm [dot] com