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Three CHRO hot topics – 2 of 3

In this second blog topic, we’re going to look at CHRO hot topic #2: There’s a shift underway in the Engagement space.

From what I can see, there are a number of forces at play in the engagement industry (see part 1 here).

First, let’s send some love to all the HR Leaders and the Engagement Survey providers who have helped introduce a data-driven people conversation into the boardroom. We have certainly made progress by aspiring to have our employees engaged in our business (as opposed to satisfied by our business). And to lend from the Aon Hewitt framework – by understanding the notion of Say, Stay and Strive, we can start to understand the secret sauce around highly engaged talent who deliver better business results.

To date, Engagement has been delivered as an omnibus “opinion” survey (vs. fact-based) and is typically conducted once per year or two – which results in a historical view and the possibility that conditions in the organization may have changed since survey completion.

Today, I think we are simply in an era of Engagement 1.0 becoming Engagement 2.0 – and change is underway. From the industry leaders (like Aon Hewitt) to the innovative startups who never knew Engagement 1.0 (like CultureAmp), they are trying to figure out how engagement must be:

  1. embedded into day-to-day operations
  2. simple and timely
  3. insightful and business-relevant.

Embedded into day-to-day operations might mean mobile apps which gauge employee happiness and sentiment throughout the day (read The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor), or using other indicators of engagement such as recognition given and received (see Achievers).

Simple and timely can be best explained by using the analogy of your heart rate as an indicator of overall health (no wonder many of these surveys are called pulse checks). The heart and our physiological makeup is the most complex system imaginable – but we make measuring it simple by having one, universally accepted metric, which acts as an indicator of health – our heart rate.

Heart rate is actually quite simple to measure (we can all do it without sophisticated equipment), timely (when taken frequently) and gives us an early warning when things are heading off the rails – like stress, the flu or a much more serious ailment.

This analogy, I believe, is the future for engagement, and each vendor will find their best way to simply represent an organization’s heart rate or pulse.

The critical next question, however, is…so what?

Is my heart rate elevated because I have a common cold, or something more serious? Because I’m out of shape walking up the stairs or because I’ve just achieved a personal best in the Boston Marathon? You get the picture. Context matters.

How do we make Engagement 2.0 insightful and business-relevant?

Line of Business Executives are asking…”What are the hard, stakeholder outcomes that can be driven by an engaged workforce? Can we make more profit? Can we ship better product faster? Can we retain key employees when the competition comes to town?”

So the engagement players are starting to move towards connecting their next generation of Engagement capabilities to business outcomes and the fact-base – like engagement to key employee turnover, engagement to sales quota achievement, and team engagement to team productivity (we’ll get into this a little in the next blog).

This level of insight requires a more granular collection and mapping of engagement data/survey responses to individual employee records and person-by-person productivity – and the requisite privacy and security concerns (and traditional anonymity statements from the survey providers might need to be rewritten). And while that may be scary for some and won’t be adopted by every industry or company – for those who genuinely believe that engagement drives differentiated business results, this is the way forward.

On a final note, I firmly believe that an organization’s health is best understood with a combination of fact and opinion. Heart rate and feeling. Metrics and vibe. Quali-Quant.

Exciting times ahead for the engagement business.

Stay tuned for our next blog in this series where we explore CHRO Hot Topic #3 – Understanding Manager Impact.

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PeopleInsight

Workforce Analytics at PeopleInsight
John Pensom is CEO of PeopleInsight with 20 years’ experience in the "people" business and gained deep knowledge in how technology, information and analytics drives business and culture change. PeopleInsight is a Canadian company delivering cloud-based workforce and business analytics; it connects and unlocks traditionally disparate HR, talent, engagement, business results and external market data to deliver rich insight through analytics in clear, visually appealing and actionable ways. Read more
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