The future of employee engagement

Liz Doig

3 Apr, 2019

Liz Doig

A Qlearsite Series: 
Employee Engagement that gets results

Bob’s sitting at his desk in Magneto Plus Plc. It’s 6pm and he’d love to be at home by now. But the system he’s working with has crashed twice already today – and if he doesn’t have his workload cleared by the end of this week, he’s going to miss an important deadline.

Bob checks his emails as he waits for the system to reboot. Click… he opens MagnoPulse, the company’s quarterly employee satisfaction survey. Right, he thinks, I’m going to tell them exactly how satisfied I feel.

Later that week, Carole reports to the board that employees are 47% somewhat satisfied, satisfied or very satisfied. This represents a slight drop since the last pulse survey – and it’s lower than the benchmark for the industry.

CEO Daljit flicks distractedly through paperwork as Carole speaks. Of course he wants these scores to be better. But what exactly is he supposed to do with them? And what does satisfaction even mean? Does it really have any kind of impact on anything that matters?

This is the world of Employee Engagement 2.0. But it’s a world that’s about to change for the better.

Employee Engagement 3.0 is here – and it’s about to revolutionise your workplace.

 

In this blog post...

If you believe in employee engagement - but have been frustrated with the process and results - we have great news for you. Engagement 3.0 is a whole new ballgame...

1.0 The frustrating promise of engagement 2.0

2.0 Why didn't Engagement 2.0 deliver?

3.0 Engagement 3.0: The promise finally comes true

1.0 The frustrating promise of Engagement 2.0

Happy teams, productive workplace. For the 30 years that the business world has been talking about employee engagement, this has been the promise.

Indeed, vast swathes of academic research have shown that engaged people perform better, stay with their companies, give better customer service, are more innovative and take less time off sick.

All of which sounds amazing. But as companies rushed to survey their teams, gaps and disconnects in the practice of employee engagement began to emerge.

 

Engagement 1.0

Engagement 2.0

Engagement 3.0

Do you like it here?

Are you committed to working here?

Tell us about your experience. We'll link it to business metrics.

From the 1950s onwards, employers began to regularly ask teams about levels of satisfaction. IN 1990, organisational behaviour expert Professor William Kahn moved the conversation from 'satisfaction' to 'emotional engagement'. In 2019, Qlearsite is leading the way in translating employee feelings and experiences into actionable, costed business insights.

 

 

1.1 What engagement research doesn't tell us

No-one disputes the engagement research findings. In fact, at a fundamental, intuitive level, they make perfect sense. If a team member feels committed to the work they do and the company they work for, of course they’ll go the extra mile.

But the research is retrospective and observational. It tells us there is a link between engaged employees and better business outcomes. What it doesn’t tell us is:

  1. Which specific behaviours and beliefs are linked to which specific outcomes

  2. Or which specific areas businesses can address to improve engagement, and therefore business outcomes

In other words, simply knowing that engaged teams are better for business does not give you any information about how to improve specific business results.

 

1.2 Frustrations for senior leaders and teams alike

To many senior leaders, engagement has felt woolly, and like there’s a piece missing. However much they’ve liked the idea of engaged teams, they simply haven’t been able to link what people say in surveys to value in the business.

This has caused frustration for some – and even calls for companies to disregard engagement altogether.

Peter Clark, organisational scientist and co-founder of Qlearsite, says the situation hasn’t just been frustrating for leaders. It’s been deeply unsatisfactory for teams too.

He says: “In a pulsing process, you’re always asking these questions. But respondents can feel that at the top level, the company isn’t always listening.”

The unfortunate irony, of course, is that if a survey cannot produce actionable information, the people responding to it can feel less important to their organisations.

2.0 Why didn't Engagement 2.0 deliver?

“There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the concept of engagement”, says Clark. “But the thinking behind traditional engagement surveys and approaches is 30 years old."

“Focusing on satisfaction in isolation simply doesn’t give leaders anything they can get their teeth into and do something with.”
Peter Clark - Co-Founder, Qlearsite

He adds: “Traditional surveys have not done a good enough job of connecting the challenges of everyday working life to the language that leaders speak, so that they can really connect them to underlying reasons for lower or higher engagement across different themes and areas of their business.

“If you have that common language you can close the gap and convert a grumble from being seen as unconstructive criticism to feedback where you can immediately take action and start to make improvements.

 

2.1 No link between employee voice and value creation 

“Lots of these surveys are revealing important elements of the employee voice, but they’re really struggling to connect that back into business leaders’ language. Which means leaders don’t know how to convert this information into meaningful change.”

In other words, traditional approaches to engagement don’t give you a way to plug the voice of your employees directly into the strategic management process. With traditional engagement approaches, there is no link between the voice of the employee and value creation.

 

2.2 The timing of traditional surveys can be off

If an HR team’s sole focus is boosting satisfaction numbers, the whole engagement piece can become disconnected from the decision-making process quite quickly.

“Management teams process big, strategic changes in organisations probably once every six months or once every quarter at the most,” says Clark.

So if you offer up imprecise satisfaction results the week after a major initiative has launched, you may as well not have bothered. In fact, it’s slightly worse than that, because your teams have spent time giving input that cannot be acted upon.

 

2.3 You need to ask the right questions at the right time

'Asking the right questions at the right time' is a neat little phrase. But it represents a significant shift in employee engagement thinking. It expresses the fundamentally different approach to employee engagement that’s the basis of Engagement 3.0.

Instead of asking traditional questions that give people an opportunity to say how happy they are in the workplace, Engagement 3.0 directly links feelings and behaviours to business outputs.

So instead of asking, “How satisfied are you?” it asks specific questions like, “Do you have the right tools to do your job?” – and then connects that question to levels of customer service, attrition or absenteeism.

In the traditional employee engagement survey scenario, Bob would only be able to tell his organisation that he was unhappy – and Magneto Plus Plc would have had limited ways to respond.

In Employee Engagement 3.0, he’d be able to tell the organisation that he couldn’t do his job properly because the system keeps crashing. Our advanced analytics would then link Bob’s dissatisfaction with a likelihood of him leaving the organisation or taking time off sick. We’d also be able to link his dissatisfaction to probable decreases in productivity.

All of which means that Bob’s input – or rather, the aggregated comments of Bob and all his colleagues – can be translated into likely, costed outcomes.

So Carole would be able to tell the board that attrition is costing £X and that an intervention costing £Y would result in savings of £Z. Suddenly, Daljit is listening.

3.0 Engagement 3.0: The promise finally comes true

What Engagement 3.0 does is provide the missing piece – the hard data that shows where value can be unlocked.

And it’s in Engagement 3.0 that Qlearsite is leading the way. Our combination of advanced business thinking and sophisticated analytics technology gives senior business leaders a tangible, quantifiable way to use the voice of the employee to drive strategy.

Clark says: “Every leader wants to engage their people and put them at the centre of the process but what they’ve never been able to do is link what people are saying to the value.

“Qlearsite changes this because we have a robust methodology that allows us to link questions to value drivers.”

 

3.1 Turning what employees say into useable, objective data

The Qlearsite approach is based on our QlearFit framework for understanding specifically which behaviours and characteristics of a business drive growth. This framework allows us to ask questions about topics we know are scientifically linked to growth and productivity.

Matrix

© Qlearsite 2019

So our framework guides us to ask the right questions. And our advanced analytics technology lets us unearth the deepest, most specific insights so that senior leaders can prioritise and allocate resources.

Clark says: “We’re creating new, powerful metrics that business leaders can use. Which means leaders can now truly build people into the change they want to make and factor people into business priorities.

“When this happens, people actually feel heard. You can show that you’re listening, that their input gets results – and that builds trust. It’s a virtual circle.”

 

3.2 Opening channels between teams and senior leaders

“This whole approach becomes really effective when you place a continuous listening strategy at the heart of business decision-making. This is when you’re listening at scale, asking the right questions at the right time and building the voice of your employees into the management decision cycle,” says Clark.

He adds: “If people give voice to things that leaders can take action on, they can create change. People feel like they’re part of a process of improvement and they become more engaged, they trust more.

“Then the company grows in value and trust – and you get to a situation of what people always thought engagement would deliver – which is better, healthier companies full of productive, innovative people who are connected not just to their work but also to the agenda of the whole organisation.

“This is what Qlearsite helps you to do – connecting people to leadership and connecting that top-level strategic vision to people.” 
Peter Clark - Co-Founder, Qlearsite

To learn more about Qlearsite's new QlearFit framework and how it can enhance your engagement approach, please use the link below to download more information or to arrange a demo.

 

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