Not Making Progress on Your Employee Engagement Initiative? 3 Keys for “Moving the Needle”

Engaged or Not EngagedWhile 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.)

5 thoughts on “Not Making Progress on Your Employee Engagement Initiative? 3 Keys for “Moving the Needle”

  1. Hello David,

    Making progress on employee engagement initiatives would be so much easier if the employer had hired the right people for each job.

    Empowering a workforce is easy to do; have all executives, managers, and supervisors do their jobs well all of the time. The hard part is getting the executives to do their jobs well, the next hardest part is getting managers to do their jobs well, followed by supervisors doing their jobs well. Employees will be doing their jobs well if everyone above them is doing their jobs well. Look out, employee engagement is about to take hold. Some employers want to skip the executives, managers and supervisor parts and go right to the employees, but that is not how employees get engaged.

    Employers have tried all sorts of things to create successful employees who do need to be managed. Teaching/preaching leadership has been replaced by employee engagement. That won’t work either until managers learn how to hire and manage employees who will become engaged if managed well, treated fairly, and paid accordingly.

    • Hi Bob–thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. You’ve brought up a great point about hiring people who are “engageable.” That is absolutely a part of the equation and needs to be considered in the employee selection process. In my experience, most employees come into an organization excited and ready to contribute. One area we need to look at more closely is why most organizations end up with a 20-60-20 distribution after a few years with 20% engaged, 60% disengaged, and 20% actively disengaged. An employee’s individual characteristics plays a part–as well as organizational culture and the quality of leadership they experience.

      • Hello David,

        80% of employees self-report that they are not engaged.
        80% of managers are ill suited to effectively manage people.
        The two 80 percents are closely related.

        Successful employees have all three of the following success predictors while unsuccessful employee lack one or two and usually it is Job Talent that they lack.
        1. Competence
        2. Cultural Fit
        3. Job Talent 

        Employers do a… 

        A. GREAT job of hiring competent employees, about 90%
        B. good job of hiring competent employees who fit the culture, about 50%
        C. POOR job of hiring competent employees who fit the culture and who have a talent for the job, ABOUT 20%

        Identifying the talent required for each job seems to be missing from talent and management discussions. If we ignore any of the three criteria, our workforce will be less successful with higher turnover than if we do not ignore any of the three criteria.
        1. Competence
        2. Cultural Fit
        3. Job Talent

        There are many factors to consider when hiring and managing talent but first we need to define talent unless “hiring talent” means “hiring employees.” Everyone wants to hire for and manage talent but if we can’t answer the five questions below with specificity, we can’t hire or manage talent effectively.
        1. How do we define talent?
        2. How do we measure talent?
        3. How do we know a candidate’s talent?
        4. How do we know what talent is required for each job?
        5. How do we match a candidate’s talent to the talent demanded by the job?

        Most managers cannot answer the five questions with specificity but the answers provide the framework for hiring successful employees and creating an engaged workforce.

        Talent is not found in resumes or interviews or background checks or college transcripts.

        Talent must be hired since it cannot be acquired or imparted after the hire.

        Employers keep hiring the wrong people to be their managers and then they wonder why they have so few engaged employees.

  2. Employee’s engagement is one of the most important things managerial staff should pay attention to.
    To keep employees interested in the company’s goals and overall success even years after definitely is not an easy task. However, I would like to share with you my company’s experience. After a long search and thoughts we appealed to employees training by means of LMS that supports any Social platform integration (we chose joomlalms because our website was on Joomla and we didn’t want to attract any additional specialists, however any lms will suit here).
    We wanted to bring more competitiveness, more engagement, more informality …and it did work! Employees became more motivated in what they were doing. Every employee was striving to improve his knowledge and skills to raise their professional level and not to lag behind. As a result the quality of job they were doing improved as well as a total productivity.
    The main thought is that managers should not be afraid of implementing new techniques, new approaches to make their employees engaged!

  3. Pingback: Employee Engagement Briefing - Agent in engAGemENT

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