From the SHRM 2016 Annual Conference & Exposition in Washington DC! We recently attended a session on the difference between having an engagement problem and having a hiring issue. The speaker, Bob Kelleher, elaborates on the topic.
Kelleher has 25 years’ experience working in corporate human resources and 7 as a guest speaker and author. He begins by stating “it’s remarkable the influence we have if we are engaged versus not engaged.” How do you know if your employees are engaged? Kelleher says a lot of companies do not really know because they misunderstand the difference between engagement and employee satisfaction.
Is Engagement the Same as Employee Satisfaction?
According to Kelleher, the answer is no. He says “Satisfaction is passive. Engagement built on satisfaction leads to entitlement, not engagement.” He suggests this is because people will be expecting things instead of giving back. He cautions against developing an underperforming employee who is satisfied—in this situation, there is no reason for the satisfied worker to improve.
The question arises: what is engagement really? Kelleher says that “Engagement is the unlocking of employee potential to drive high performance.” He elaborates that first, the company has to help the employee reach his or her potential, and second, help the employee understand that it’s his or her responsibility to help the business. “The intersection of the two is engagement” says Kelleher.
Are American Workers Engaged?
Kelleher says that U.S. companies spend over $1 billion a year on activities surrounding employee engagement. He remarks that despite the money being spent, a recent Gallup poll found that only 32.5% of employees are engaged. According to him, these numbers are the same as they were during the recent economic troubles. Kelleher remarks, “You have to ask why.”
According to Kelleher, the primary reason that engagement levels are so poor rests with the definition of engagement. He says that people consider engagement to be a linear measurement. “Life is not linear. We all have our ups and downs.” He elaborates on the point by saying that a worker’s engagement level depends on where he or she is in life. Therefore, measuring engagement once every few years doesn’t capture a clear picture. A more regular look can help you get a real idea of how well-engaged your employees really are.
Another problem, says Kelleher, involves companies that have no identity. “If you don’t know who you are,” he says, “how can you get the kinds of people that define your culture.” He gives an example of a prominent grocery chain that had its customers’ purchasing habits down to a science. When this same company was asked if they know why people work for them, they had no idea. Kelleher says “You don’t have an engagement problem; you have a selection problem.” He repeats that you must have an identity if you want to hire the types of people who will be engaged in your business.
Employment Branding: The Gateway to Engagement
Kelleher says that often, corporate America does not do employer value proposition (EVP) well. He adds that if you spend some time making sure your EVP is successful, “that becomes your brand.” In other words, you need a way to create an identity that functions as your employment brand.
Kelleher distinguishes what you sell from why you sell. “I can always figure out what you are trying to sell me,” he says. He goes on to say “Why you do it is an emotional connection … it’s more complicated, but it’s also much more powerful.”
Tomorrow we’ll hear more from Kelleher on the topic of identity and employer branding.