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Get the employee engagement tattoo!

Earlier this month I was invited to take part in an Influencers Masterclass following the release of a research document from Oracle titled “Making HR the Champion of Employee Engagement”. I have also been working with the HR Tech World team on interviewing all the #disruptHRtech companies for this year’s event and the fact that there were almost as many companies focussing on employee engagement as recruitment/ talent is very telling on how much employee engagement interest (if not adoption?) is on the increase.

So, in usual Faye-style, here are some of my observations from the reports and the masterclass…

Who owns Employee Engagement?

According to the research, only 3% believe HR have an impact on employee engagement so once again we see HR on the back-foot – but should we be worried?

Employee engagement (and all its various definitions) is not a process – it is a creative mix of art (storytelling, design, content creation) and science (data, technology and tools). So in my opinion the owner is beyond HR with employee engagement being led by a Chief Collaboration Officer or even a Chief Culture Officer that serves the entire company.

The blunt fact is that HR may not have the total requisite skills to lead the employee engagement charge but what they absolutely are, are the enablers – HR should support the business managers and take the responsibility for getting the job done (not the outcome) whilst holding the leaders to account.

Its prime time to put some inspiration into HR and employee engagement has the ability to do this – Jason Averbook tweeting @HRTechWorld on Yves Morieux stimulating session says about HR “YOU ARE NOT IN THE BUSINESS OF AUTOMATING THE MESS! – A tattoo we should all get while in Paris #HRTechWorld

So how engaged are we really?

We all love a good stat but (with a lot of good efforts underway) I’m not entirely sure we know yet what we are measuring and what indeed an appropriate benchmark would be. I’d be interested to hear your views on this?

In 2012 a prior Oracle report stated that 27% of UK employees were highly engaged, whilst a Towers Watson report more recently stated the global average was 35%. CIPD’s 2014 Employee Outlook survey says 35-39% employees indicate positive engagement, whilst this more recent Oracle #SimplyTalent report says it’s (still) 27% in the UK, and slightly higher in EU at 35%. And the list keeps going. So if studies range from 19-39% using a range of definitions the question has got to be – is this enough? As Carrie Bradshaw would say “Are we settling for too little?”

If you really believe one of your company’s top objectives that your ‘employees are your biggest asset’, ‘we have a great place to work’ then HR has to start to engage the company and actually put this into practice. Eaun Semple posted an article yesterday on the back of HR Tech World in Paris supporting this which is well worth a read to stimulate some internal discussion!

What’s a good starting point?

  1. Define what employee engagement is to your company– behaviour, attitude, feeling, environment…. Oracle’s The Changing Nature of Employee Engagement study says 52% companies have a strategy although 88% state employee engagement as important. Ask what business benefits do you want to target – is it Performance, Productivity, Innovation, Customer Service?
  2. What is it going to improve? How will you measure it?Employee engagement will constantly change so how will you get a valid measurement to define business outcomes? In the same report as mentioned above 41% could link engagement to business outcomes, yet only 12% measure in real-time (70% aspire to). Employee engagement is not and never can be single-metric reporting – be specific and double check everything is aligned to business outcomes. Check out my post on the #disruptHRtech interviews – specifically the links to Quercus, Beekeeper, Cabanna, Clustree, Includeed, Praditus, Teambay, Wellevue and Workometry for some #employee engagement inspiration.
  3. Think like a marketer – think communications Communicate at the ‘individual’ level to foster collaboration and engage more proactively. Think about emotional needs, not management messages! Give your employees a meaningful voice – your workforce isyour social network. And identify your superstars –to create role models and cement your organisational integrity.

And as we said earlier, key to HR is the ability to step away from the ‘process’ and focus on what’s right for the business and the individual employee within it.

David Fairhurst had it right in an earlier presentation – if you had an IT department with 20% of your computers working, 60% unreliable and 20% redundant/ disruptive you’d have a serious problem, so stop thinking of employees as a line item on the company accounts, and start to actually deliver on that well publicised corporate strategy by making employee engagement a key focus in your business.