If the title of this article sounds like heresy, it’s because it is. If you’re like most companies, you focus a lot on why people leave your company, hunt for clues to indicate flight risks, and create programs to boost engagement. If only the results of such efforts were as good as the intentions.
Here’s the reality: Organizations are pouring a ton of time, money, and energy into employee engagement solutions to reduce turnover (especially in today’s tight talent market), lower absenteeism, bolster well-being, and improve productivity. At the same time, talent leaders are turning to employee engagement to elevate the employee experience, shape workplace culture, and strengthen the overall employee value proposition. No wonder employee engagement as an HR technology category has ballooned to over $74 billion, according to The Starr Conspiracy.
What’s the Problem with That?
The problem is, employee engagement continues to hover stubbornly around 30 percent, according to Gallup. Could it be that employers are pumping too much effort into engaging the wrong people?
It’s time for a new approach: Rather than expend resources engaging employees who may leave, you’ll be better off concentrating your efforts on those who want to stay. That’s because already-engaged people are the backbone of productivity at your organization. In fact, highly engaged employees are 38 percent more likely to have above-average productivity, according to the Workplace Research Foundation. It’s therefore important to figure out who these people are, get better data around what engages them, and then scale your efforts in meaningful ways.
A Tight Talent Market
With unemployment at less than 4 percent, the risk of losing top talent is about 400 percent. OK, that’s an exaggeration. However, perhaps such hyperbole is necessary to jolt organizations that may not have fully woken from dreams that high performers won’t leave them. Increasingly, a tight labor market is bad news for employers struggling to retain and recruit the right people with the right skills.
Gallup data reveals that 63 percent of employees think they could easily find another job just like the one they currently hold. That doesn’t mean that these individuals are disengaged. Indeed, a good number of them are likely very engaged employees. Still, while 37 percent of engaged employees are looking for jobs or new opportunities, according to Gallup, higher numbers of employees who are not engaged or actively disengaged are doing the same (56 and 73 percent, respectively).
Whom Do You Want to Keep?
Now ask yourself this: Which type of person do you want to keep — a disengaged employee considering walking out, or an engaged individual who’s likely producing and performing at higher levels?
Your answer to this question should likewise dictate which employee you want to make a greater effort to engage — especially since an actively disengaged worker can cost you 34 percent of that person’s salary. (For example, a disengaged worker who earns $60,000 can cost you $20,400 a year.) That’s also roughly what it costs to replace an employee. According to Employee Benefit News, you can expect to spend about 33 percent of someone’s pay to replace that person.
Additionally, organizations with engaged employees outperform other companies by as much as 202 percent, according to Dale Carnegie Training. Consequently, it’s important to strive for a culture that nurtures retention of engaged employees to effectively tackle ever-changing business challenges.
The Right Data to Engage and Keep the Right People
By leveraging the right HR technology, you can measure not only engagement but commitment, turnover, absenteeism, productivity, and a range of other KPIs. Furthermore, it’s vital to use a mix of long-form and pulse surveys, gather feedback through other talent management solutions, and capture information from one-on-one conversations. Then triangulate your findings with other people data to identify your most engaged employees and inform actions to engage them even more.
The more you can learn about this critical employee population, the easier it will be for you to retain, recruit, reward, and recognize people in ways that will foster a culture of engagement. Ultimately, by leveraging data to engage the right people, you will be far better positioned to help your organization achieve its business goals.
About the Author
Naveen Miglani, January 21, 2018
Naveen Miglani is the Co-Founder and CEO of SplashBI. Over the past 25 years, Naveen has established himself as a respected leader and global influencer in the HR technology, BI, and data reporting markets. Prior to joining SplashBI, Naveen held many senior positions such as CEO of Apex IT, EAI Leader at GE Energy, and Managing Principal at Oracle Corporation.
How to Rock Employee Engagement
Employee engagement needs a new approach: Stop expending so much energy trying to convince disengaged employees to stay. Start focusing on engaged employees — the workhorses and reliable people who drive a business.
It goes against the current of employee engagement to abandon disengaged employees. The HR technology category for employee engagement is estimated to be in excess of $74 billion because companies are trying everything they can to keep employees, reduce employee turnover, and drive productivity. Pulse surveys. Rewards and recognition. Casual learning and skills building. Real-time coaching and feedback. Yet Gallup data comes back year after year showing employee engagement stuck at about 30 percent. We just can’t seem to make everyone happy.
So stop trying to make everyone happy.
Let me put it this way: Disengaged employees have already checked out. They are not the co-workers engaged employees want in the trenches with them day-in and day-out. Engaged workers are the people that other engaged workers and business leaders want on the bus. They are committed, enjoy the work, and want to see the organization thrive — if only management would get rid of the deadbeats. Except, most companies focus on why people might leave a company, monitor flight risks, develop programs, and deploy technology to bolster engagement. The results aren’t matching the intent.
Sure enough, you too might be investing in programs or turning to technology providers to reduce turnover (a high priority in a competitive jobs market that favors candidates). Or you’re trying to show employees you care about them by providing well-being programs and solutions, training and learning opportunities, or development for managers to be better bosses. All great things that will probably improve morale or reduce absenteeism. Ultimately, productivity may even rise. You might even be focusing on the employee experience or creating a stronger workplace culture to attract great talent and elevate your employer brand.
All of the above is driving the employee engagement technology category, attracting the attention of investors who see silver bullets everywhere to the employee engagement conundrum. And yet.
Seems Like Employee Engagement Has It Right
We believe that if we do more to create a better employee experience and support employees in their well-being, career paths, and give them better managerial support, then they’ll be more engaged. Why is it then that employee engagement remains stuck?
Here’s one hypothesis: We should stop focusing on disengaged employees and start looking to engaged employees. Find them, understand them, and hire and keep more people like them. They are committed. They want the organization to succeed. They want to be surrounded by more “all-in” co-workers. And they probably want to stop carrying all the burden of productivity. Heck, they might even be more engaged when they notice that you’ve noticed they are the most important resource the company has.
It’s time to rethink employee engagement. As business and HR leaders, we need to stop putting resources into the people who have already checked out and invest in people who want to stay in their job. It’s a tough thing to say that you’re willing to let people go. But if you’re honest, those disengaged employees are probably not worth the effort and you’d be better off hiring more people like your most engaged employees.
According to a study by Workplace Research Foundation, highly engaged employees are 38 percent more likely to be more productive. We need to do more to find these engaged employees, gather more data around why they are more engaged, and find a way to replicate at scale that engagement. The trick is actually finding them and gathering sufficient data around what makes them tick.
You Don’t Have to Lose the War for Talent
Unemployment is hovering at 4 percent, which has HR leaders everywhere speculating that 70 percent of their workforce is ready to leave at any minute (if you reverse engineer the Gallup data cited earlier). Turnover certainly isn’t that high, but the risk of losing people is real enough that we’re doing all we can to minimize departures (especially when it costs about 33 percent of someone’s salary to replace that person, according to Employee Benefit News). Recruiting and retaining people with the right skills for business needs is paramount to survival and competitive advantage.
Another study by Gallup found that 63 percent of employees think they could easily get as good a job as they already have. Now, people leave jobs for a variety of reasons, but the fact that people are willing to walk out implies that they are not fully committed to an organization.
You might provide great pay, great benefits, great programs, and great training that recognize great work or that can advance a person’s career. Yet if you’re doing all that and people still are disengaged, it might not be you.
At which point it’s worth asking: What’s the cost of keeping workers who aren’t committed in terms of productivity and customer dissatisfaction? Perhaps the fight for talent is hurting your bottom line.
Whom Do You Want on the Bus?
Forget tracking disengaged employees. Track engaged employees. The reality is that better workforce analytics — made possible by enterprise technology that captures HR data — can help us find and evaluate engaged employees. It used to be the norm that collecting and analyzing data required a small army of data scientists. However, the digital age and omnipresent technology can help business and HR leaders measure and evaluate engagement, turnover rates, absenteeism rates, where productive employees exist across an organization, and countless other KPIs that matter to organizational success. We now have myriad tools at our disposal, such as long-form surveys, pulse surveys, manager and coaching tools, and workforce data.
Leveraging technology can help us identify and evaluate our engaged employees. We can use those insights to support those people and hire others with their characteristics. The more we focus on engaged employees, the better we’ll become at feeding our talent pipeline and fostering a culture that collectively is more committed to the mission and better business outcomes.
Kiran is the Co-Founder, President and Chief Architect of SplashBI. With over 20 years of industry experience, Kiran has been instrumental in the design, management, and implementation of SplashBI core technologies and business practices. Kiran currently oversees the development, global delivery, and support departments of the company.
We Need Better Data on Engaged Employees
Disengaged employees take up a lot of energy and likely bring down morale among other employees (not just because negativity can be infectious but because it’s hard for engaged employees to carry the load of being positive or doing all the work). Engaged employees are high-performers, future leaders, and want the organization to succeed. In fact, engaged employees are all-in and put in discretionary effort because they are committed.
That’s why the answer seems pretty clear: We should invest in our engaged employees — especially considering a disengaged employee can cost about 34 percent of a person’s salary in lost productivity. That’s about the same cost to replace someone. The math, then, is just as clear. Disengaged employees aren’t worth the cost of keeping them, let alone investing in trying to convince them to be more committed.
Now consider data about engaged employees: Companies with engaged employees outperform competitors by as much as 202 percent, according to Dale Carnegie Training. It only makes sense to focus on engaged employees to drive productivity and help organizations take on business challenges.
About the Author
Kiran Reddy Pasham, January 21, 2018
Kiran is the co-founder, President, and Chief Architect of SplashBI. With over 20 years of industry experience, Kiran has been instrumental in the design, management, and implementation of SplashBI core.