Social scientists and human resources academics have been researching employee engagement and the concepts in and around it (like job satisfaction, happiness and burnout) for decades now. Our understanding of the science has shifted and changed with advances in thinking and measurement. Based on this we have implemented countless programs, initiatives and projects to "get people happier and more productive". There are two problems with this approach.
The first is that for many leaders and organisations, the pendulum has swung well and truly toward the latter. Productivity. Not just getting results, but productivity at any cost. I'm talking profit over people.
The second is that if we have been trying to get people more engaged through decades of initiatives, why is it that only 13% of the workforce count themselves as 'actively engaged'?
It seems to me that we have a concept that is not working, that is being measured through surveys that are not working. Let me explain that fairly bold statement a little more.
We are becoming much more removed from seeing people as whole human beings at work and so it's easier to see people as numbers- as part of a throw-away statistic that gets spouted at the annual conference. In reality each person is a living, breathing piece of your business with dreams, challenges and potential to contribute. I recently saw a department within an organisation titled "People, Property and Procurement". We see people akin to 'things'.
We know that initiatives that take a holistic view of engagement - one that encompasses 'head' and 'heart' engagement, get better results. Why then do we continue down the path of only seeing employee engagement as the connection between someone's thinking and their job? Engagement is so much more than that.
We also know that annual engagement surveys do little to keep up with the speed of modern business, so why do we continue to use them?
We need to re-think employee engagement. Firstly from the perspective of how we define it, secondly how we use surveys and thirdly how we use the data that surveys provide to us. Data should be collected in as real-time as possible and used to create real conversations and embed lasting change, not just be a fancy statistic based on an expensive annual survey. Until we change the way we define and measure engagement, we can't begin to make real difference in how a human being experiences their work.
I'll be speaking more about the research behind employee engagement in our first Get Up To Speed Series session. Click here for session and booking details. If you can't make the session but would like to know more about the current thinking around employee engagement and what it means for your organisations, please get in touch on 0409 585 443 or at email@example.com