“The Holy Grail” of HR

I recently read a great article presented by the Human Resources consulting firm, Human Synergistics.  I am a big advocate for their services including insightful and actionable surveys for leadership and organizational culture.  Back in the day I was fully certified to use their products and  nearly 20 years later still refer to my materials.

In this article they talk about Employee Engagement as the latest Human Resources “answer”. I borrowed my blog title from their own title since it is so perfect to describe the situation. Indeed, study after study point to employee engagement as a critical factor (the critical factor?) that drives organizational performance.

Yet is employee engagement enough? Have we found the “Holy Grail” for HR?

This white paper article asks the question, “Is employee engagement the only factor that leads to superior organizational performance?  Once we measure then improve employee engagement, are we done with how we can impact performance?  The authors’ answer is no.

I invite you to read the article yourself (link here). Of course the article and the research cited focus on their own products, but the results are powerful.  Employee engagement is not the end all or Holy Grail. One must go deeper into the culture of the organization under review.  For example, the article cites how passive behaviors can lead to a so-called engaged workforce.  Employees focus on what is best to keep their job and how to make it easier vs. real performance leaps and “making a difference”.

Culture, the norms and expectations for how we work and interact, is important and must be part of our measurement of organizational health. Identifying the organizational culture at hand and then deciding on how to adapt, if needed, is the true realm of improving organizational performance.

My own organization jumped on employee engagement several years ago. We filled out the surveys and waited for the feedback. I remember several things from this process:

  • Our HR department was very excited with the process. This was a means to have a meaningful impact on the organization.
  • I did not see much engagement from senior management. The new employee engagement process appeared to be a add-on to corporate meetings vs. top of agenda stuff.
  • When initial survey results were back, the pressure was on the department level leaders (like me) to present the results to our staff, promise to do better, and build action plans for improvement.
  • Departments were compared to each other with implicit thought that some departments were doing a “better job” than others. The benchmark was set and everyone had to improve the survey results after we carry out our action plans.

We were never able to fully complete the action plans and further surveys to check status and reset internal score sheets. The economy did not improve, our fate was set with a portfolio of bad loans, and with layoffs starting, not a good time to talk employee engagement.

By the time my company decided to dive into employee engagement, it was too late. Several years previous would have been perfect timing. Not just for employee engagement, but for a complete assessment of our corporate culture.  My, my … what we could have unearthed.

Culture rests at a depth where organizations rarely dig. Again, I invite you to read the Human Synergistics article and think about your own work culture. Employee engagement lies a few feet under the surface. Grab a shovel and dig deeper. There is more to discover.

Indeed, as I move forward with my experience and knowledge, I will pack a shovel as well.

All the best to you and WeMoveTogether.

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