Many here are hit daily with new opinions on which employee engagement survey, or which rewards program you should use. The ten pillars for this, the 24 best of these, 14 ways to improve, this or that and each is based on a new and scientifically proven survey.
“The job of supposed intellectuals is to combat oversimplification or reductionism and to say, well, actually it’s more complicated than that. At least that’s part of the job. However, you must have noticed how often certain complexities are introduced as a means of obfuscation. Here it becomes necessary to ply with glee the celebrated razor of old Occam, dispose the unnecessary assumptions, and proclaim that, actually, things are less complicated than they appear.”
Letters to a Young Contrarian, 2001
You’re probably reading quite a few referrals to articles and studies supporting the ROI of employee engagement, but of course there isn’t a scintilla of empirical data to support these claims. Some say it’s logical, read on.
Lets tackle the ROI rumors first. Phil Rosenzweig wrote the “The Halo Effect” where he pretty much destroys the credibility of the research performed by the authors of “In Search of Excellence” “Good to Great”, and “Built to Last”. Seems that poor research can be wildly successful if combined with good story telling. He sites the numerous flaws with the research, which he calls “delusions.” What each of these authors did in examining their targets for great companies was to argue that, hey, it worked over there, look how well they’re doing. The question they never answered, one particularly aimed at employee performance was, is the high level of success and employee engagement a result of the example company being successful as opposed to anything, which was done specifically to improve EE. I think most would agree it’s more enjoyable to work for a successful company than a not-so-successful company.
One of the other delusions Rosenzweig talks about is basing the investment decision on the delusion that because something worked over there, it’s going to work over here. It doesn’t. So, if you were to read this book you couldn’t accept stories and studies about what’s happening with other companies’ EE status as a justification to do the same. There is absolutely no correlation, the comparison dots just do not line up. There’s a different leader, a different market, a different culture, and different politics; what could possibly go wrong? A lot!
Suppose you get past the smoke and mirrors cost justification, what about the BIG THREE that got you where you are. Are they likely to just lie down and go to sleep when the survey recommendations are being discussed, of course not? While it may seem I paint the THREE with too broad a brush, over a twenty-year span of combining EE and cost reduction in the same initiative, we have always encountered at a minimum one manager or executive rejecting recommendations for their own convenience, attempting to leverage one or more of the BIG THREE.
Taking a completely different approach to EE than the survey providers, we get the CEO to sponsor an EE/Cost initiative and to use a third party to push the employee’s suggestions past THE BIG THREE. As you can imagine, with outsiders challenging the BIG THREE, there’s always some friction. Yet, with the knowledge that a lack of agreement will ultimately make its way to the officer’s staff meeting, in twenty years only one has reached that point and it was a disaster. Imagine how the HR executive will feel taking on his/her peers at every turn. That shouldn’t happen and when it does, what a tough career lies ahead for HR.
Contrast the, “well others have saved money with turnover, training and productivity and some arbitrary measurement might indicate EE has improved”; with telling the client up front, they’re income statement is going to improve even before the ten weeks are up and that EE will rise because employees will be given credit for everything that happens. Some sacred cows will be put to rest and perhaps a corporate bully or two might be sent home. Policies, which were heretofore off limits, will be assigned to the dustbin. It’s hard to imagine employees not becoming engaged.
A final word on the cost issue, our approach has delivered a breakeven on the fees far before they are actually paid, never exceeding three weeks at the total run-rate. So, in effect, EE really can be an investment, one such case delivered 51 times the EE investment in a single year. So why so little in the way of performance guarantees from all the EE survey companies?
We love talking about our approach, even if you’re just curious.