Bursting the Employee Engagement Bubble

How many of you spend countless hours chasing employee engagement scores, and a ton of money on employee surveys? Are you demonstrating the bottom-line impact of this time and money? Maybe you’re now wondering why you started focusing so much on employee engagement in the first place.

I’d like to give you a little background on why employee engagement became such a fad. Back in the 1990s, a book was published called “First, Break All the Rules” from Gallup that introduced the concept of employee engagement. Unfortunately, it was based on flawed research and purported to show that 12 magical things were all that any company – of any size and industry – needed to be successful. The research was flawed because companies that were already successful were examined and common themes emerged. Discovering that companies that make a lot of money and are well-run also have happy employees is not surprising. The problem is that HR leaders (and Gallup) jumped to the conclusion that making people happy or engaged is what caused those companies to be successful. Wrong! Actual cause-effect research/analytics that we conducted showed that the employees were engaged because those companies were successful. Bottom line: employee engagement is not a business outcome and it is not a driver of business outcomes.

Many consulting firms have made it their sole business to sell surveys and services based around employee engagement and you may very well be working with some as we speak. Have they ever shown whether engagement provides bottom-line impact? What I propose instead is shifting the focus from typical HR outcomes of interest such as employee engagement or job satisfaction, to business outcomes such as sales, customer satisfaction, financial performance, and employee performance. Isn’t that what your c-suite is measuring, and the metrics that actually move the needle?

Consider focusing on solid business outcomes (instead of the latest consultant’s fad) that can provide actionable information and demonstrate greater impact in driving business results than employee engagement. You need to go beyond slicing and dicing HR data and start demonstrating direct connections to business metrics that matter most to executives. How? Advanced analytics and strategically targeted HR initiatives. If you’d like to learn how to do so, feel free to contact us for a demo of SMD Link or learn more in our white paper.

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