From Measurement to Business Performance: How Can We Raise the Employee Engagement Needle?
The term Employee Engagement was first defined in 1990 by William Kahn, who described it as "The harnessing of organization members" selves to their work roles; in engagement, people employ and express themselves physically, cognitively and emotionally during role performances" (Kahn, 1990).
In the years that followed, employee engagement has been the subject of much research, and has been defined and redefined time and again. I am particularly fond of AON Hewitt's succinct definition for employee engagement: "the psychological state and behavioral outcomes that lead to better performance". Aon Hewitt’s Model of Employee Engagement, 2015.
Gallup has been consistently measuring engagement levels in the United States and all over the world. According to Gallup, engagement in the USA has increased by a 7 mere 3 points from 2011 to 2016 (to 32.5%). Global engagement clocked in at 15%. This is of particular importance when we analyze the correlation between engagement levels and business performance. An AON trend survey pointed to a correlation between a 5-point increase in employee engagement and a 3% increase in company turnover the following year (2017 Trends in Global Employee Engagement).
Research has also shown us that the following organizational indicators are positively influenced by employee engagement: workplace attendance, innovation, employee preservation, customer satisfaction, organizational productivity & performance, health & safety, and revenue.
Employee engagement is important – and everyone knows it
Organizations worldwide – led by their respective Human Resource departments – have realized the importance of employee engagement. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent annually on employee engagement solutions, products and methodologies. A 2017 Forbes survey that included 3000 HR personnel discovered that 66% of organizations consistently measure employee engagement (Forbes, 2017) . This is accomplished via engagement surveys.
The 2017 Forbes Survey pointed out something very interesting: Despite the great effort in employee engagement measurement and cultivation, only 22% of organizations report an improvement in engagement indicators since the start of their surveying efforts. 13% report an employee engagement decrease. 31% report that things haven't really changed. And 34% don’t really know, because they haven’t surveyed on a regular basis.
So why is employee engagement so hard to improve?
In my opinion, our methods are hampering our efforts. Here's why:
Frequency: A survey is usually conducted once a year or every two years. Between surveys, organizations find themselves "blind" to employee engagement. Some organizations use Pulse Surveys, but they usually provide information on specific aspects and neglect the full picture.
Resources: Conducting a survey demands a lot of resources – writing the questions,distribution, analysis, action plans, communicating the results to employees and more.
Disturbance: The survey and everything that comes with it can sometimes be perceived as a disturbance to the organization's ongoing activities, and therefore does not always gain the support and cooperation of all division and departments within the organization.
Duration: It takes between one and two years to examine the outcome of the actions that were implemented.
Replacing analog methods with digital methods
Mark Twain once said: "Actions speak louder than words". What if instead of asking our employees questions, we could analyze their behavior and actions? What if instead of asking our employees if they recommend their place of employment to their friends, we could see if they share our open positions online?
When we talk about digitization, we are referring to computerized organizational platforms that can automatically deduce the levels of active employee engagement. Here's a comparison between analog and digital methods:
Digital platforms allow organizations to:
Save precious resources such as time and money, while greatly reducing the interference with the ongoing activities.
Receive a full picture regarding employee engagement and existing gaps, in real-time and without the need for additional analysis and processing.
Find out in real-time if our intervention actions generated the expected outcomes, while changing and adapting on the fly. This is the implementation of Machine Learning principles (act – learn – correct).
Receive real-time indicators regarding how improvements are influencing engagement levels and organizational performance.