It’s high time we took a fresh approach toward employee engagement, insists Josh Bersin, writing for Forbes.com.
Engagement and retention remain big issues in the global workplace but Bersin argues that the traditional annual engagement survey is outdated and obsolete. He calls for “a much more holistic, integrated and real-time approach to measuring and driving high levels of employee commitment and passion”.
Survey providers, most notably Gallup, created the engagement survey over 30 years ago. They were inspired by the work of late-1800s industrial engineer Frederick Taylor, who observed the positive effect of employee satisfaction on production rates within the steel industry.
Over the years various surveys have emerged, each providing tools and surveys to measure employee engagement. Bersin explains why this old assessment model no longer works:
• It’s way too narrow. The author argues that the traditional engagement survey is simply not in-depth or complex enough. Improving employment culture means rethinking management styles, the work environment and even the workforce itself – issues that don’t figure in most surveys.
Instead, we need to look beyond the narrow concept of engagement and think of new ways to make our employees feel happy, valued and important – whether that means ending appraisals, providing nap rooms, redesigning jobs or screening staff for “culture and job fit”.
• The word “engagement” is problematic. Bersin even takes issue with the word “engagement”. Reaching out and engaging employees is no longer enough.
Bersin argues: “We aren’t just looking to get people ‘engaged’, we want them to be ‘married’. That is, fully committed.”
The author explains that we can only do this by making our workplaces as exciting, fun and fulfilling as possible – by creating what he calls the “irresistible organisation”.
• We need new tools for a new approach. Instead of measuring engagement annually, a number of new tools are measuring happiness and job satisfaction on a day-to-day basis.
Bersin cites Toyota’s NikoNiko calendar as a good example. Toyota staff rate each day with either a green (happy), amber (neutral) or red (angry) face. NikoNiko gives team leaders an easy-to-read, daily gauge of employee satisfaction.
Putting real-time feedback tools in place encourages employees to openly express their feelings. It also allows managers to deal with issues before they blow up.
• Our people need more. Bersin also insists we rethink the way we look at our employees. We should stop thinking of workers as hired hands we need to engage, and start seeing them as the “essence of products and services”.
By thinking outside the parameters of employee engagement, we are more likely to attract, inspire and develop happy employees, insists the author. We should be aiming to make our organisations “irresistible”, then engagement will come naturally.