What If Your Employees Managed Engagement?

“Once a year, I am going to share with you what I think about you. That does not make any sense. Performance is an ongoing activity.”

This statement was from Pierre Nanterme, Chairman and CEO of Accenture, on the dated concept of the performance review. His firm was one of many that have gotten away from this process that is grounded in another era.

But as I thought of this in a conversation the other day about engagement surveys, it dawned on me that this survey process is exactly the same. We wait once a year to find out what the employee is thinking about us. In some cases, the wait is 2 years.

Just let that sink in for a minute. With all the disruption in the performance management space, how could we not apply that same concept to the engagement survey?

Engagement Is an Everyday Process

Engagement is an ongoing activity as Nanterme mentioned. How can you as a leader in good conscience allow your most valuable asset to basically be ignored, but for one month a year?

One of the main focuses for every leader is that the workforce is changing. Imagine for minute that you were still trying to sell to your customers the same way you did 30-40 years ago. If that were your strategy, you would be out of business by now.

I am hearing from more executives who are beginning to doubt this process. They are beginning to believe it is obsolete and ineffective. It has out-lived its usefulness. There have been too many bad experiences, coupled with negative social conditioning surrounding the process from managers and employees.

Are You Analyzing the Results?

My other concern is that the more I ask the questions of HR professional about the analysis of these surveys, the more dismayed I get:

  • How many people were in each box?
  • How much movement from last year?
  • Are the numbers trending upwards or downward?
  • Which boxes gained the most in redistribution? How much are the numbers costing you?

Responses are pretty much dead silence.

So to get this correct, you did the survey and you did nothing more than report the summary numbers to the leadership team? No further analysis, no breakdown of the numbers, etc.?

The real work begins when any of these processes closes. A thorough analysis has to be done and use what I call the box technique. How many employees fall into each box, how can we move them into the good boxes? This gives you a benchmark to begin the process.

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Employees do not want to be assessed once a year, especially when they pour their heart out and nothing, for the most part, happens. Engagement is an everyday, long-term process. The same way that we listen to our customers is the same process that we should use with our employees.

The Customer Engagement Model

I travel 3 weeks out of the month, which normally means 3 different hotels in 3 different cities. I have come to expect that I will receive an email the following week from each hotel asking, “How are we doing.” Imagine if I received that email once a year!!

Every company for the most part is seeking frequent feedback, and I have begun looking for that interaction. When I do not receive that email it makes me wonder whether they are really taking my business seriously. The bar is being set in so many industries with this frequent feedback that we have come to expect it.

Why could we not use this same concept with our employees? I am not suggesting a daily or weekly email, but monthly would not be a bad idea. Create an engagement council that consistently monitors, pulsing employees for their feedback. Vinett Nayer in his book Employees First, Customers Second was the inventor of this new management idea. When he was CEO of HCL Technologies, he created Employee First councils.

Employee First councils work on the goals that are of common interest to all employees and also help maintain a balance between work and life. They let the employees unleash their creative talent to improve engagement. Most importantly employees are central in the employee engagement formula.

Engage them and let them help you figure it out. This is not rocket science; we all want to know “how are we doing.”

So, the concept of the once a year process is as outdated as the landline phone. It is a new day and we have to listen and engage more frequently.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.

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