25th January 2019

People Analytics – How employee engagement is a business leader’s most vital tool.

Employee engagement is increasingly recognised as being at the cornerstone for innovation and marginal gains in the corporate world; the answer to every business leader’s problem they didn’t know they had. Quality staff retention, renewed productivity, increased profits and happy customers are the holy grail but while everyone might agree on the benefits, the road to quality employee engagement is paved with potholes and dead ends, and can leave employers wondering where they took a wrong turn.

Employee satisfaction surveys in isolation can be seen by employees to be at best as a waste of time and at worst as a means to trip people up and root out dissenters. Employees who, rightly or wrongly, fear retaliation result in skewed results and an expensive pile of data. And that is just those who participate – employee engagement surveys have a notoriously poor response rate.

However, building a culture in which there is trust and positivity, one which habitually reaches out for and values employee involvement, that strives for employee contributions which improve rather than just mirror concerns, is worth its weight in gold; affording much greater insights and informing the culture for new staff. If set up with due care and a real desire to see change from traditional tip-down hierarchies, it can become the norm for everyone to be instrumental in their company’s future. Naturally, your best assets, your valued and invested workforce won’t offer empty positivity when in fact they have a genuine grievance.

Amy Edmondson, in her book ‘The Fearless Organisation‘ calls it ‘Psychological Safety’ – where team members feel safe to take risks and be vulnerable in front of each other.”We all want to feel respected at work and that we are part of something larger than ourselves.”

Empowered staff will add to the growth and be instrumental in embracing change, whether through making a contribution towards marginal gains or indeed coming up with an inspirational idea that might just take the company in a whole new direction of success.

Liz Ryan (Forbes), had these sobering words to say on employee satisfaction surveys in a recent Linkedin post:
“Employee Engagement Surveys are the business equivalent of giving the prisoners in a penitentiary a survey to complete once a year and slide through the bars of their cells. The survey process cements an unequal power relationship.”

In order to truly involve staff we need to let them break out of the cell and be free. They need to be trusted, respected – not just once a year – but all the time. We need to give them a platform, a voice to share their ideas, even if they raise tricky issues; we need to be as unafraid as we are asking our staff to be; we need to have a realistic perspective on politics, i.e. be clear about who in the organisation is seeing what; we need to share and celebrate their ideas and reward effectively. Embracing change starts with people analytics –  leaders in an uncertain UK business world cannot afford not to.

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