Employee Engagement is a lightning rod for debate in HR and HR Technology circles.  Engagement in the workplace has been studied for decades.   You’ve probably seen the most commonly quoted statistics:

70% of the US workforce doesn’t like their job

40% of the global workforce is disengaged

Groups with high levels of engagement are reported to have anywhere from 18% to 20% or higher profitability AND productivity, and more than 60% lower turnover.  There are other amazing benefit stats ranging from lower absenteeism to higher customer engagement to fewer safety incidents, and more.  (Firms like Gallup and Towers Watson publish their Aggregate Engagement Survey findings regularly on their websites)

These stats are usually used in the world of HR Technology to call your attention to which survey to use to measure the problem, or to a growing number of solutions aimed toward improving engagement.  If you can address engagement you get more profitable, more productive, and keep more of your best people longer.

But, here’s the stat that really jumps out at me:

No change since roughly 2000

There has been no material change in the engagement of the workforce, despite all of our measurement and hard work.

70% not liking their jobs and 40% global disengagement. Those are roughly the same statistics that have been bandied about since 2000.

Let me be clear:  I’m a believer in engagement.  I believe that an engaged workforce delivers incredible results.  I’m also no engagement expert.  But, I do know that when you do the same things over and over again expecting different results some people call you crazy.

We tend to measure engagement on an annual basis and then, based on survey results, apply HR program effort and dollars to the primary issues we uncovered.  Seems to be a very logical approach, however that stat  – no change since 2000 – begs to differ.

Maybe we know how to measure whether someone is engaged, but need to introduce some other dynamics to the measurement – possibly factors OUTSIDE of the workplace.  In my personal experience factors like my feeling of community in the town I lived in and the company I worked for had as much to do with my engagement as anything my employer could do via HR for me.  Maybe the corporate initiatives we take on for engagement (compensation, succession planning, learning and development, incentives, benefits, performance management, 360 degree feedback, casual Fridays, beer o’clock, bring your dog to work day, etc. etc.) – maybe as top-down corporate programs these help us MAINTAIN the workforce’s level of engagement, but only until the time when we put career path in the employee’s hands will this get any better.  It’s quite possible that the Employer can only provide the path and the opportunities, and the employees need to decide whether, or how, to walk down it.

I don’t have the answers on engagement, but like seemingly most of corporate America, I have a lot of questions.  The questions I don’t have to ask any more are whether engagement is an issue –   It clearly is.  Or, whether having an engaged workforce drives positive results?  This is common sense.

To paraphrase Josh Bersin, of Bersin by Deloitte, at May’s InfluenceHR HR Marketing Symposium, “Engagement is an area ripe for innovation.”

I’m seeing some incredibly smart and valid new approaches to measuring and addressing Employee Engagement emerge from HR Technology vendors.  Innovation is coming via new approaches in both the science we use to understand and measure engagement as well as approaches and technology to address it.

A word of caution for those evaluating technology addressing Employee Engagement:

One thing is certain, there will be continued confusion for those evaluating the technology associated with measuring and addressing engagement.  So many point solutions that IMPACT engagement will look convincing to buyers based on specific issues in their workforce, or specific stats from their most recent engagement survey.  So many HR Tech firms are messaging to engagement – every decision at every step of the employee lifecycle, from hiring the right people for the job/company to their learning and development plans, to their compensation, and succession plans, and so on can be tied at some level to improving engagement.

 

3 Vendors Innovating to Improve Workforce Engagement

RiseSmart:  In the same way RiseSmart disrupted the Outplacement Industry with their Career Transition Platform and Services by focusing on the thing they see as most important for an employee in transition: finding a new job, they look to disrupt the world of Employee Engagement with their new product, “Compass”.  Compass is an employee-centric HR software solution that promises to empower employees to forge their own career paths, while arming HR with the tools to better understand skill gaps.  Aiming to deliver improved engagement, retention and performance.  Compass puts the employee in the driver seat for their career planning and provides a mix of consumerized guidance via their interface and career coaching via integrated video (a successful approach in their Employee Transition product), all while promising to take into account the nuances of what “career path” means to any given employee at any particular stage in their career.

BlackbookHR:  Via their product, “sense”, BlackbookHR combines surveys and results, “people-intelligence” (think analytics with actionable insight), and an “engagement engine” (actionable input for employees to see where the opportunities are to “engage” with each other), in one platform.  Sense is marketed to Small and Medium sized businesses, and promises the kind of employee-centric approach and usability required for that market.  BlackbookHR brings a new measurement to the discussion:  embeddedness, which takes into account dynamics in, and out of, the workplace promising to derive who is a “flight-risk”.  The BlackbookHR technology is used by the county of Miami, FL, and the cities of Cincinnati, OH, San Jose, CA, and other municipalities to measure the “embeddedness” within those communities, offering a very unique perspective for an HR Technology vendor.

Happinessworks:  The creator of the award winning Happy Planet Index, the first global measure of sustainable well-being, is also one of the founders of Happinessworks, which brings a new measurement of “happiness at work”, promising to look beyond stress management and engagement to get to the real drivers of great jobs.  Their unique “happinessatwork survey” is available for individuals to gauge their happiness in the workplace and get insight into how to improve areas of concern.  It’s also available to employers to measure the happiness of their workforce.  The firm goes as far as providing a calculator to estimate how much of a financial impact happiness could have on a business of any size.  Happinessworks is another example of an employee-centric approach to delivering the technology, and a new science behind measuring and addressing workforce engagement.

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