While employee engagement continues to be a hot conversation topic in the HR press and throughout organizations, moving from knowing to doing has proven difficult—and even counterproductive in some cases. In many organizations, shining a light on engagement has only made matters worse—especially when an organization has surveyed employee perceptions and then made very little effort to do something about improving those perceptions.
When that happens, organizations find themselves with falling engagement scores and increasing apathy from employees about participating in continued surveys. As a result, many engagement initiatives are stalling, and some are even in danger of being quietly discontinued.
Dr. Drea Zigarmi, a founding associate and Director of Research for The Ken Blanchard Companies who has been studying employee engagement since 2006, believes organizations can achieve the results they are looking for if they are disciplined in the way they measure, plan, and roll out engagement initiatives.
In the September issue of Blanchard’s Ignite! newsletter, Zigarmi identifies three areas where organizations need to be especially vigilant in the way they approach this type of organizational initiative.
Start with a validated assessment. Find an assessment that accurately measures what is happening in your organization in a way that is reliable, validated, and provides you with information that the organization can act upon. If a commercial scale is used, be sure to vet the scales and also make sure that the psychometric properties are specified and up to academic standards.
Tie the assessment to specific outcomes. Move beyond just measuring employee satisfaction. Before you launch an engagement initiative, tie it back to specific desired outcomes. What would you like to see happening differently in the organization? Zigarmi recommends a focus on improving employee intentions in five key areas because they are the best predictor of future employee behavior.
Devote resources to implementation—not just measurement. One of the reasons organizations find themselves in an engagement bind these days is because the primary focus is on surveying their employee base without much thought about what to do with the results. In many cases, the implementation plan doesn’t go beyond sharing the data with managers and asking them to fix it. When that is the situation, interventions usually lack depth or the character necessary to change the perceptions about what is going on.
Zigarmi reminds leaders that employee engagement initiatives are organizational change initiatives. Most changes will require policy or system support. The good news is that with the help of a validated instrument, clear connections to desired behavior changes, and a focus on action, employee engagement initiatives can achieve the results organizations are looking for.
To learn more about Zigarmi’s recommended approach, read, Not Making Progress on Your Employee Engagement Initiative? 3 Keys for “Moving the Needle” in the September issue of Ignite! (You can see the 12 Employee Work Passion factors Zigarmi recommends assessing and the Five Employee Intentions he measures.)