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July 2013

Chickens, Eggs & Employee Engagement

Employee Engagement: is it an attitude or is it a behaviour? Does it make any difference?

Chicken & egg_000016030848XSmallNow, you might be inclined to think that is a “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” question. After all we all know that attitudes shape behaviour, don’t we?  But do they? For example, if you have a bad customer experience, you will be reluctant to support that business in future. So behaviour (theirs) certainly has shaped attitude (yours.)

Let’s now apply that logic to the employee engagement issue. Is it possible that your employees are disengaged because of your behaviour?

This unavoidably implies that employee engagement is an attitude. But is it? What if employee engagement is a behaviour?  Perhaps now you can begin to see that this is a more profound question than you initially thought, not least because of the way in which you approach the issue. After all, if you see it as an attitude problem you will very likely manage your people differently than you would if you saw it as a behaviourial issue.

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The Downside of Performance Measurement

Oscar Wilde once said, “Moderation is fatal. Nothing succeeds like excess.” Maybe he was right, although it is difficult to judge without knowing the context of the remark. It seems more likely, however, that the opposite is true: namely that excess is fatal because it will always ultimately end in failure, no matter how successful it may initially seem, or how benign the activity.

Performance Measurement_000014898327XSmallTake performance measurement for instance. This appears to be an area that is getting excessive attention and where a rigid – almost religious – fervour is having disastrous side-effects. Few can doubt that wrong performance measures are driving wrong behaviours.

You only have to look at the banking industry for evidence of this. How else do you explain the recent, massive fines it has incurred? But, if the banks are too easy a target, take the NHS. Following earlier reports that 3,000 people had died unnecessarily in the past year, (the same number as died in 9/11!), this week saw the publication of the Keogh Report that identified such significant failings in 14 out of 146 acute NHS hospital trusts (10%) that 11 have been placed under special measures.

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Education and Employee Engagement

A colleague sent me the link to a TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson.It was interesting; informative, amusing and absorbing, but most of all it was incredibly thought-provoking.

As I listened, however, I started doing a little mental juxtapositioning and replaced the education context with the business context. In doing so, it struck me that many of the challenges they face are similar. For example, the education dropout out rate could be likened to the disengagement rate in the business world. 

In light of this, Sir Ted's reference to the mechanic, command-and-control approach to education and his call for a more human, organic approach seems to apply equally to business. After all, we refer to businesses as organisations, so they must be organic. Thus, if culture is organic, as he said it is, then we have to find a more organic way of doing business, (especially in light of the common conviction that command-and-control management is dead). After all, like education, business is ultimately about people. 

Sir Ted claimed that if the education drop out rate in the US could be halved it would add a trillion dollars to the US economy over 10 years. I have seen past estimates that employee disengagement costs the US economy around $330 billion p.a. (that's billion with a 'b'!) So imagine what a huge difference it would make if we could solve both these problems, and it might just be a whle lot easier if we recognise the similarities.

Anyway, here is the link to his talk. Listen to it, and see if you agree with me, and if so, what lessons there are there that you think could apply to the business world too, and please share your lessons with me.

I look forward to hearing from you and starting a healthy, constructive discussion.

ROI on Talent Management? You're Joking!

Self-development is an essential part of life. In fact it is an unavoidable part of life, but in today’s world it is perhaps more vital than ever before. That is one reason why I subscribe to a number of e-zines and newsletters, despite sometimes feeling that I am drowning in emails. Only you never know when you will get something that will transform your life! Unfortunately, trying to identify these can sometimes leave you feeling like an old wild-west prospector, trawling fruitlessly through tons of mud.  

ROI_000014630950XSmallThis week there was mostly mud, including an invitation to a series of webinars. One of these included something about the “ROI on talent acquisition.” That stopped me in my tracks! Return on Investment on Talent Acquisition? Two things about this immediately irked me.

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Employee Engagement is an Attitude, not a Project!

Do you ALWAYS wake up with a desire to jump straight out of bed and meet the day? I doubt it. Even if you do so more often than not, there will still be times when you simply feel like you would rather turn over and go back to sleep. I bet, however, that you would resent being labelled a lazy layabout in those circumstances.

And that’s the problem with employee engagement. Whatever your definition of employee engagement (and there are so many to choose from) the fact is that it is an attitude and thus will vary from moment to moment. Not only is it personal, but it depends on so many factors such as:

  • What you have to do;
  • How you are being treated;
  • What else is happening in your life;
  • etc. The list is virtually unlimited.

Business Speedo 000016662418XSmallYet we seem be becoming obsessed with employee engagement with numerous surveys and much research trying to measure just how engaged employees really are. At the very best all this does is give you a snapshot at a particular time. It is rather like the speedometer of your car, constantly changing. Even in the finest luxury motor car with the most sophisticated cruise control, you would not expect to drive at a constant speed all the time. So, are we misguided in the emphasis we are placing on these tools and the way we are using them?

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