A smarter approach to the employee engagement challenge

A smarter approach to the employee engagement cha...

Today's need to do 'more with less' applies to a workforce in the same way as it does to any other corporate resource. Consequently, the importance of getting employee engagement right has never been greater.

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There’s a wide range of views regarding what engagement really is. They range from being as qualitative as something you can sense when entering a room, to a highly sophisticated analysis of attitudinal and behavioural data. Regardless, it now commands serious attention in both academia and practice.  

Transformational engagement

An emerging view is that engagement needs to be characterised as transformational. Organisations dedicate 90 percent of their engagement effort on ‘post survey’ activity to inspire people to do great work and match their efforts with business needs.

The other 10 percent is attributed to ‘transactional’ engagement – the often sterile process of capturing survey-based evidence to support the transformational programme of engagement activities. 

I would suggest that the whole process should be transformational. Why shouldn’t the process of capturing evidence truly engage people and exemplify the values of the organisation? 

This is where technology can play a big part; to create a more natural and interactive experience for employees to help shape a more engaging culture. 

Such an approach means moving away from a reliance on the (often pseudo-scientific) statistical measurement of ‘engagement’. Instead, it means moving to viewing the employment relationship as a dynamic, social and economic exchange between employer and employee. To know that your ‘engagement score’ has risen by two points may be interesting, but it’s seldom actionable. The key is to understand the components of the processes which produce high levels of engagement. 

Conversational insights

I recommend that insights are captured through conversational practices, which depict the employer-employee ‘relationship-in-action’. For example, employees’ conversational commentary or free text statements which are part of an employee engagement exercise can be captured and analysed using digital natural language processing tools.

This is done using thematic and sentiment analysis, which distils survey free text into an ‘at-a-glance’ overview of the main topics and ranks sentiment. In other words, attitudes and feelings. 

Tackling employee engagement effectively

How businesses respond to the insights created like this should be similarly engaging. Ongoing employer-employee conversation can reveal, in real time, where things are going well and where various tensions are delaying progress.

Tackle the employee engagement challenge effectively and engaged staff can represent a real competitive advantage. Tackle it badly, and well-intentioned efforts risk being undone by tokenistic or ineffective approaches.

This article represents the views of the author only, and does not necessarily represent the views or professional advice of KPMG in the UK.

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