Sunday, 30 May 2010

Confidence, engagement and human capital


   Indy replied to my recent post on engagement, and my question about why Kenexa’s, and other, engagement surveys don’t seem to pay as much attention as I’d expect to the social aspects of engagement.

His view:

“Who's right and who's wrong? That's a big discussion - but my instinct is to take the middle road and say rather that you and Jack are talking about two different things.

Assuming the picture shows some of his results, he's talking about the commitment of an employee to an organisation - or possibly a "job." The social stuff is about how connected someone feels about the work that they do. The decisions people make are a mixture of two axes...

Actually, now I've typed that, I don't know if there's a clear divide, the axes are not orthogonal. My experience is that even if someone really enjoys their work in a social sense, they may move if some of Jack's factors are a problem. And vice versa...

One thing I'd throw in is that there are different situations, but a lot of the time, individuals in a job are choosing between staying, or moving to one that is essentially similar. Social engagement is often a tipping point issue..”


I think Indy’s right.  These are different, albeit interconnected, things.

And actually, something similar was thrown up at the conference.

So Kenexa define their engagement index as the average level of agreement for:

  • I am proud to tell people I work for my company
  • Overall, I am extremely satisfied with my company as a place to work
  • I rarely think about looking for a new job with another company
  • I would recommend this place to others as a good place to work.


But in one session, we looked at another survey on employee confidence.  I’m not sure if this survey focuses on activities or outcomes, but Thomas Rasmussen from A.P. Moller Maersk certainly defined it as the end people outcome of:

  • Employee Engagement
  • Good leadership (leading at the right level)
  • The right organizational setup (large enough roles.


There’s certainly no reason that confidence couldn’t be an outcome based index.

It goes back to the point I made last year as part of a longer series of posts on engagement surveys that we should really be focusing on surveying much more than just engagement:

“In my last post, I provided some advice on surveying the engagement of your workforce.  But why stop there?  What's so magical about engagement which means this is the only thing you think about surveying, when human capital consists of so much more?  As I've described, engagement is just one bucket inside the bigger bucket of human capital.  And this itself is contained within the even bigger bucket of organisational capability (human + organisation + social capital).  So why not survey these?”


The need for social connection may not show up as part on an engagement index, depending on how you define it (pride, satisfaction, retention, advocacy in the case of Kenexa), but this doesn’t mean that this, or things like confidence, can’t have a sizeable impact on discretionary behaviours and business results.

It’s important to focus on outcomes rather than just activities, but we need to ensure that we’re paying attention to the right ones.

Any more thoughts?



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  1. If you survey to determine engagement, what does that get you? What do you do with the results? Measuring alignment of employees seems much more valuable.

  2. Thanks Erik. What does it give you? The ability to improve the enablers that cause it (/ human capital)and hence business results. But I do agree alignment is important and is one of the other things I include in my human capital bucket.


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