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It's Time to Transform Employee Engagement
By Kevin Martin, Chief Research Officer, i4cp
And, at most organizations, employee engagement is simply a score that manifests from an annual or semi-annual all-employee survey; it’s used to benchmark against and report to the board of directors but is often void of timely or actionable insights.
Both of these situations are unfortunate and avoidable.
Today, in an environment where disruption is happening all around us, agility and transformation are the name of the game. As such, the way organizations measure, monitor, and drive overall workforce engagement must also transform.
This is because, as i4cp research has consistently shown, an organization’s ability to anticipate, adapt, and act on changes and opportunities in the market are connected tightly to the organization’s ability to attract and retain engaged top talent. Here’s how it all flows together:
• Your organization is likely going through—or will soon go through—some type of transformation (e.g., digitization) to better or more quickly align with or catch up to the forward-looking needs and expectations of both its customers and the markets it seeks to serve.
• This business transformation will more than likely require a shift in strategy and organizational structure to enable faster and better decision making at the point of execution.
• Any shift in business strategy will more than likely dictate how your organization’s culture must adjust in order to support—as opposed to fight—the new strategy.
• Because of this, your CEO will be focused on assessing whether her/his executive leadership collectively has (or can adapt to) the mindset and skillset required to enable the desired culture and to lead in this new way of work.
• All of this shines a bright light on whether the organization can attract and retain the highly-engaged talent it will need to enable and sustain the transformation it seeks. An essential component of this is a strong employer brand, which, according to i4cp research, is the articulation of the experience of working at your organization.
This leads to a couple of important questions: Does your organization monitor, gather, and analyze what is being discussed (externally and internally) about the company? Does the organization know how (including which channels) the talent it seeks to attract and retain is talking about and gathering insight and information about the company?
Two years ago, in an effort to identify and remediate sentiment among diverse top talent that could lead to disengagement and regrettable turnover, Intel launched an internal case management service it calls Warm Line. As Barbara Whye, Intel’s Chief Diversity Officer, shared at the 2018 i4cp conference; of the more than 10,000 cases that have been opened over the past two-plus years, 90 percent have resulted in a save.
To most business leaders, employee engagement is a conundrum; they know they want it, but they’re not sure how to build it
This is not to suggest that without the Warm Line service offered to employees and the interventions that resulted, that 9,000 of these issues would have resulted in employees voluntarily leaving the company. That’s not the point.
The bigger issues facing employers are not knowing where negative employee sentiment resides, what the negative sentiment even is, or what to do about it.
Imagine the widespread and/or institutional damage or distraction that just a single disgruntled, disengaged, or demoralized employee can have on co-workers, customers, or other key stakeholders. Much like the potential danger associated with an iceberg remains largely unseen at the surface level, the real risk to an organization often lurks levels below the executive suite hidden in the sentiment of its workforce.
What might the cost to the business be in terms of lost employee engagement, productivity, customer relationships, or product quality if there is hidden toxicity in the organization’s culture? How well does the workforce perform if a significant portion does not feel safe or valued at work due to the words or actions of those they work with or for?
At high-performance organizations, employee engagement is viewed as a means to achieve a greater purpose such as better productivity, customer satisfaction, or retention of top talent; it is not pursued as an end in and of itself. To boost engagement, I encourage you to pursue the following four strategies:
Create an act on an enterprise listening strategy. The IT function should partner with Human Resources, People Analytics, Diversity and Inclusion, and Marketing to develop and implement this strategy. Focus on proactively and regularly (e.g., daily or weekly) collecting and analyzing employee and candidate sentiment and feedback, converting it into actionable insights, and communicating it back to the relevant stakeholders.
Focus on engagement from day one. A company’s ability to engage employees begins before employment. Recruiting, interviewing, and onboarding all play roles in familiarizing individuals with the culture of the organization and helping them establish critical network connections. Microsoft, for example has adopted a straightforward approach to finding out what new hires need to succeed: They ask them. And then they ask again.
The company has created a survey that new employees receive at the end of their first week on the job. They complete a similar survey at the 90-day mark. The intent is to help the organization understand how new hires perceive the Microsoft employee experience. The data is used to glean what’s important to new employees as they learn their jobs. In turn, the organization strives to provide them with what will make them happy and productive—and want to stay and continue thriving with Microsoft.
Identify, and then understand and energize your top talent before it’s too late. Does your organization know who its top talent is? Does it know which of its employees have the greatest influence? If not, conduct an organizational network analysis to identify the flows of information requests (i.e., who people turn to for what?). Then, don’t wait until a valued employee regrettably leaves to ask them ‘why?’. Instead of exit interviews, conduct stay interviews. Find out what motivates and engages your top and most influential talent before it’s too late. Enlist and energize this talent to refer others and become brand ambassadors who advocate on behalf of the company.
Provide personalized and diverse development opportunities. The frequent movement of talent across and enterprise is a hallmark of high-performance organizations. Establish robust internal mobility programs—across functions, teams, units, geographies, and even with key external stakeholder groups—and provide high-visibility assignments that help raise the profiles and strengthen the personal networks of your top (and up and coming) talent.
Whether your organization is focused on enabling more and better employee performance feedback, desires to ensure a consistently better candidate-to-new hire experience, or simply seeks to understand how what is being communicated is actually being heard by its key stakeholders, an employee listening strategy can pay huge dividends.
In an environment where disruption is happening all around us, agility and transformation are the name of the game. And the way organizations measure, monitor, and drive employee engagement must transform with it. What role can IT at your organization play in its employee engagement equation?