Every two weeks we bring you opinion, news and research on Employee Engagement, Leadership and Organisational Performance, along with some thoughts on practical workplace applications.

Editorial: Reconnecting Values and Behaviour

Let’s take as a given that raising employee engagement is good for business. The correlation between high engagement and higher productivity has been well made in various studies and is widely known. And let’s take as a second given that globally only about a third of employees are actually and actively engaged at work; the evidence once again is clear so I won’t rehearse it here (but feel free to explore it further).

The obvious question that immediately leaps up from this is: since there’s such an obvious and recognised need to raise engagement, and since the benefits of doing so are so clear, why are the improvements we’ve seen in engagement over the years so poor?

Part of the problem is that companies focus on the wrong things to raise engagement; “doing stuff” is rarely if ever going to have much impact. Organisations need to think more radically.

Take, for example, Gothenburg-based Toyota. They took the radical decision 13 years ago to reduce their working day to 6 hours (and many other firms in Sweden have since followed suit). MD Martin Banck reports:  profits have risen by 25 percent; happier staff; a lower turnover rate; and ease in enticing new employees to come on board. “They have a shorter travel time to work, there is more efficient use of the machines and lower capital costs – everyone is happy,” he said. Since then, this has been adopted as national policy in Sweden.

We’d love to see organisations in the UK do the same! It’s a great idea that will certainly affect the motivation, happiness and satisfaction of employees. But these things aren’t the same as engagement; they are just contributory factors. We’re convinced that behind Toyota’s success lies something more important but less obvious to the outside observer: the relationship of trust between each employee and their managers.

Employees are very observant. They quickly see a mismatch between the values the organisation publicises and the behaviour of the organisation’s managers. The true values of the organisation can be seen in the behaviour of the senior leaders, not on the office noticeboard or intranet. And when such a mismatch occurs, trust – quickly followed by engagement – falls through the floor.

This is true all the time, but especially at times of significant change. We are advising one client on how to reshape their organisational structure to create a stronger organisation for the future. And the starting point? The vision and values of the organisation. Everything flows from that, and depends entirely on those values being consistently lived out every day.

Until an organisation’s culture is driven by the values it wants, its culture will arise from the behaviours its senior leaders chooses to model. And those two things aren’t always the same.

It’s time to move beyond engagement.  Empower and align employees with organisational priorities to build a culture of high performance, well being and career satisfaction.  To learn more, call 03450 523 593

The Need to Lead in Data and Analytics

Executives have high hopes for their data and analytics programs. Large majorities of respondents to a recent McKinsey Global Survey on the topic expect their analytics activities to have a positive impact on company revenues, margins, and organisational efficiency.  To date, though, respondents report mixed success in meeting their analytics objectives.

For those lagging behind, a lack of strategy or tools isn’t necessarily to blame. Rather, the results suggest that the biggest hurdles to an effective analytics program are a lack of leadership support and communication, ill-fitting organisational structures, and troubles finding (and retaining) the right people for the job.

In this new, in-depth survey, executives say senior-leader involvement and the right organisational structure are critical factors in how successful a company’s analytics efforts are, even more important than its technical capabilities or tools.

Signs an Employee Is Exceptional (Which Never Appear on Performance Evaluations)

[This article drew our attention as we so often focus on creating the right culture for exceptional people to thrive, but perhaps not so much on what it is about exceptional people that makes them such an asset to an organisation (albeit sometimes a little difficult to manage).  It sums up nicely what it is that makes these exceptional employees who they are – Ed.]

Great employees are dependable, proactive, hardworking, great leaders, and great followers. They bring a wide variety of easily defined (but hard to find) skills to the table. However, some employees, are exceptional. They have skills and qualities that aren’t evaluated on performance appraisals but make a huge impact on that individual’s performance, the performance of the people around them and, most importantly, on the company’s results.

Signs an employee is truly exceptional:

  • They think well beyond job descriptions.
  • They’re quirky…
  • And they know when to rein in their individuality.
  • They praise other people in public.
  • And they disagree in private.
  • They ask questions when others won’t.
  • They like to prove other people wrong.
  • They’re constantly exploring.

Jeff Haden expands upon these signs in this piece as Contributing Editor for Inc.

The Dark Side of High Employee Engagement

Although employee engagement has become something of an HR fad, it would be hard to deny that it matters. In fact, robust meta-analytic studies show that higher levels of engagement boost employee wellbeing, performance, and retention.

That said, engagement doesn’t always seem to add up. For starters, the correlation between engagement and performance outcomes is far from perfect, which means that many engaged individuals and teams are not delivering the results that leaders expect. By the same token, some leaders will find that their best performing teams are often amongst the least satisfied.

It’s also plausible that engagement itself can be a barrier to better performance if it’s taken to an extreme. When employees are too focused on getting along, they will probably not care so much about getting ahead e.g., ambition becomes greed, self-esteem becomes narcissism, and creativity turns into odd eccentricity.

Writing here for Harvard Business Review, Lewis Garrad and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic alert us to potential threats from very high levels of engagements, and call for managers to think about how to create balance: just enough tension in their workforce in order to trigger healthy competition and intrinsic motivation.

Take Charge of your career, team or organisation by aligning individual goals with organisational priorities. To learn more, call 03450 523 593

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