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Employee engagement never failed; It simply changed
Nishant Muralidhaan | Bengaluru | Wednesday, 17 August 2016

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Businesses across the globe are all trying to build an inclusive, energetic and multigenerational team. With a world moving into a new era, ‘engaging people’ emerged as one of the biggest competitive differentiators in business.

In 2014, a Deloitte research concluded that 78 per cent of business leaders rated retention and engagement as urgent or important. With the onset of the digital age, everybody simply knows everything. Some even call it social stamina — the ability to stay up to date via digital channels.

There’s also that bit about brand. Businesses across the globe are all trying to build an inclusive, energetic and multigenerational team. With a world moving into a new era, ‘engaging people’ emerged as one of the biggest competitive differentiators in business.

However, just as the world changed, so did the term, ‘engagement’. To understand that, we most definitely need to review what it once defined.

Traditional definition
Roots of employee engagement date back to as far as the late 1800s when Fredrick Taylor, a pioneer industrial engineer, studied how people’s attitude impacted their productivity in the steel industry.

This has taken the form of surveys in the modern era, and today, there are hundreds of different providers. The technology behind it uses analytics and benchmarking tools to help assess an employee’s level of engagement.
1. Sugar-coated version? It’s good, but the process fails to keep up with generational shifts.
2. Truth? It’s dead.

Ask yourself two questions
1. How frequently do you conduct an employee engagement measurement in your organisation?

In a Mettl survey, the result settled at 60 per cent of respondents citing it as an annual affair— a startling percentage, considering how annual appraisals are now revealed as a weak measure for anything. In fact, several pioneers suggest a push to a more continuous learning, appraisal model.

2. What new-age measure do you use to gauge employee engagement in your organisation?

By popular vote, several organisations choose work hours as a metric. This was an applause to the many unnoticed employees who may have, on occasion, stayed beyond the hours defined, including evenings and weekends. This is a great parameter to ascertain organisational alignment, albeit a flawed one.

Why? Simply because metrics differ within generations. While the baby boomers and gen X measure performance in hours, the millennials prefer productivity in spite of hours. Other metrics include networking within and outside a team. Of course, several other effective new-age metrics continue to surface.

While the first point really is moot to discuss, the second is one of vital importance. In a similar Mettl survey, not more than 10-15 per cent recognised the new-age metrics for engagement as viable.

Organisations have evolved. Economies have evolved. Why then do we continue to replicate methods of the past with engagement? That sounds an awful lot like North Korea and their limited access to the Internet. Never become an organisational North Korea.

(The author is senior associate – insight marketer, at Mettl. He is currently developing content around psychometric assessments and has previously published a book in the fantasy genre titled ‘Tempestatem’ in 2015.)

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© 2016 HR Katha
Last modified on Wednesday, 17 August 2016

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