Engagement: Does it Matter Any More?

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

As an Organisational Development specialist and a Chartered Fellow of the HRINZ, I'm often asked if engagement is still important.

That’s an easy question to answer with two words: ‘Yes’ and ‘But’.

YES: It is vital to the success of every modern business. Deloitte’s 2016 Human Capital Trends report shows this is the number one most important trend for New Zealand leaders (up from #2 the previous year and #4 globally).

BUT: Engagement has matured and organisations should now be focusing their engagement efforts at an organisational level, rather than an individual level.

Shifting the focus from individual engagement to organisational performance

In the early days of ‘staff surveys’ we measured staff satisfaction - how happy were employees with things like training and equipment. We then deepened our questioning to understand what made our employees feel committed to go that extra mile or ‘stay, say and strive’.

It worked well for some organisations, but many have plateaued - while individual engagement increased, organisational performance hasn't necessarily improved to the same extent.

We are now grasping the fact that it is not so much about our efforts to engage individuals, but our efforts to improve organisational performance.

This has never been as important as it now. Why? There are three main reasons:

1. There is an intense competition for talented millennials, for whom job loyalty is not as important
2. There is a need to attract workers with highly-developed technology skills as organisations digitise
3. An organisation’s employment brand is transparent, meaning potential candidates can easily decide if they would want to work there

Making gains in this space is no longer a nice-to-have. This is much more serious, war-for-talent territory. Josh Bersin of Deloitte calls it a "shift from improving employee engagement to a focus on building an irresistible organisation”.

Engagement and organisational performance are not just issues for the HR team; this is a leadership challenge. Leading companies now work proactively on driving up organisational performance. They will regularly check in to find out why their employees would commit to giving their best to the organisation and what can be done to help win the war for talent.

Modern challenges, modern solutions

With the stakes this high, we need to move on from ticking the annual engagement survey box. Tomorrow's leading organisations will exert continuous effort to ensure they can attract, retain and harness talent.  Engagement and organisational performance efforts must be always-on, with regular pulse surveys, or re-testing of key issues identified in annual surveys.

Until recently there was nothing available that allowed leaders to measure both engagement and broader organisational performance continuously and easily. Thankfully, we now have AskYourTeam. I’ve had first-hand experience using this system with a large client of mine and I was blown away with the results.

One of the biggest benefits to using AskYourTeam to my mind is that leaders really ‘get it’, and they’re active in using it. This is not a tool for HR professionals - this is a tool for leaders who will drive organisational performance.

When you see it in action - leaders using an always-on listening approach, and entire teams driving for improvements in organisational performance - it all seems so obvious. I can see why some large corporations have now appointed a Chief Listening Officer (watch out heads of HR - this could be your next title!). I’m 100% excited about what can be achieved with this next-generation thinking.