Why have some companies massively boosted their number of engaged employees, while others have not? It comes down to two reasons.
- An employee engagement program needs to be a manager education and development initiative, not a measurement initiative — but many are really just the latter. An annual survey by itself does not help anyone. The survey should be just an audit of whether things are getting better. But the program should be all about providing managers with learning and tools to increase engagement within their teams, week in and week out — through ongoing conversations between managers and their employees.
Many companies simply conduct an annual survey and more or less tell managers to “get better,” but they don’t sufficiently follow up. This has never worked and will never work. It’s not what our most successful clients do.
Any company with an “engagement program” should step back and look at what that program actually entails. If the program is all about arming managers with learning and tools to better engage their people every day, then it’s on the right track. If it is merely an annual survey and reporting exercise, the organization should close it down, regroup and start over.
- Companies are not nearly selective enough about whom they name as their managers, at every level. Most people become managers either because they were top individual performers or because they’ve been around the company a long time. Neither of those two things has ever shown a strong relationship to being a good manager. In fact, Gallup research has found that only 10% of human beings are naturally wired to be great managers — and some others, while not naturally gifted, are teachable. But companies choose candidates with the right talent for the job only 18% of the time.
While great manager education and development can help almost anyone be a better manager, it works a lot better if you invest heavily in people who are already wired to be great in the role. There are scientific ways to accomplish this: psychological assessments, better-interviewing questions by hiring managers, etc. Companies need to use this science.
Employee engagement programs haven’t worked at many companies because they haven’t been done right or implemented thoroughly. And frankly, this has stalled the engagement movement.
Measurement alone does not make a movement. More carefully choosing managers, and then providing those managers with the learning and tools to psychologically engage their teams, makes a movement. It is never too late to do the right things. Start now.