The Big Problem with Employee Engagement

implementEmployee engagement is at an important crossroads. After years of conducting engagement surveys, organizations are finding that improving employee engagement is a lot more difficult than measuring it.

Surveys have helped organizations to identify areas that need to be addressed, but an inability to “move the needle” when it comes to improving scores has turned optimism into cynicism in many cases.

Organizations need to shift their focus says Bob Freytag, Director of Consulting Services for The Ken Blanchard Companies. In an interview for Blanchard Ignite, Freytag says it’s time to take action.

“Stagnant or declining engagement scores tell you that leadership fundamentals are missing,” explains Freytag. “Putting those fundamentals in place requires time, focus, and a strategic shift.

“Engagement surveys create a dynamic tension between what is and what is possible in an organization. The best leaders lean into those needs and become sponsors and champions of change.”

The Ken Blanchard Companies’ ongoing research into the factors that create a passionate work environment has identified three major areas of focus—Organizational Factors, Job Factors, and Relationship Factors—that leaders at different levels in organizations need to address to bring out the best in their people.

Organizational Factors include Fairness (as measured by Distributive and Procedural Justice), Growth, and Performance Expectations.  Job Factors include Meaningful Work, Autonomy, Task Variety, and Workload Balance.  Relationships Factors include Connectedness with Leader, Connectedness with Colleagues, Collaboration, and Feedback.

At an Organizational Level, senior leaders can begin looking at ways to shape the organization’s systems, policies, and procedures. At a Job Level, managers and supervisors can begin to explore the degree to which their direct reports feel their needs are being met in each area–and once identified, look at ways to set up the conditions that are more favorable for each factor. The scores on the four Relationship Factors can—and should be—addressed by leaders at all levels to understand how to improve the connections between people in the organization.

“But leaders need to address issues directly and not be vague or ambiguous,” cautions Freytag. “Help people see a clear path ahead and address what is possible. Also recognize how important you really are as a leader. Leaders often get in the groove like anyone else and they come to work, they execute against their list of responsibilities, and they forget the importance of their role.

“It’s important for leaders to remember that they are always having an impact—you have no choice in that. The only choice you have is what that impact will be.”

You can read the complete interview with Freytag in the November issue of Ignite.  Also be sure to check out the information about a free webinar that Freytag is conducting on The Leader’s Role in Creating an Engaging Work Environment.  It is a complimentary event, courtesy of Cisco WebEx and The Ken Blanchard Companies.

8 thoughts on “The Big Problem with Employee Engagement

  1. In spite of all efforts like this, how can we expect employee ‘engagement’ when in this advanced capitalist state job disappear, either automated or out-sourced, and too often employees are treated like pseudo slaves by inept managers who are compromised by sense of superiority because of their positions, and their agency conflict problem leads them to focus on preserving and protecting their own position and turf. Too often this is the case, but the tension and lack of engagement is built into modern capitalist employer (master) – employee (slave) relationship. Employees, people, see through this. Perhaps hundreds of years ago, when the lackies were uneducated an uninformed, they could be controlled by the whip, or ignorance, or superstition, but not today.

    • Hi Marie–that’s exactly the type of command-and-control type of environment that is hopefully continuing to shrink–even in a capitalistic economy. We need expansion and growth–old ideas of treating people as interchangeable “hired hands” will not get us where we want to go.

  2. 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.

    Employers keep hiring the wrong people to be their managers and then they wonder why they have so few successful, long-term engaged employees. 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 95%
    B. good job of hiring competent employees who fit the culture, about 70%
    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.

    • Hi Bob–thanks for the reminder about the importance of elevating the right people into positions of leadership. I agree that the quality of leadership in a company is a big factor in the subsequent perceptions have about their work environment. Most of us have experienced the difference of working for a good manager versus a bad one. Thanks for opening up a discussion about five questions to ask–these are a great start.

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