Maybe it’s the ex-banker in me, but when I hear claims made about the ROI for engagement activities, I cringe. Comments like – ‘When your people are engaged, they will be more productive’ – and other wonderfully vague, broad suggestions.
I find myself asking… How quickly will all this magic happen? Will everyone be engaged, company-wide – and, for how long? How do I get them there – and keep them there? Will they be engaged in the right productivity? [Crickets chirping in response.]
To make the situation more frustrating, it seems as if we have been assuming (at least in our actions) that engaging people is a simple equation that can be solved, once and for all. HR and the coaches/consultants they bring in are (truly!) doing amazing things for individuals. I really do mean that.
I just happen to believe that this is where it usually stops – with the individuals. It’s as if everyone is working from a belief that:
…If I could just engage one person + another + another + another….
and these people go and engage one more + another + another….
Then the sum of that simple equation will equal = (fingers crossed…)
Increases in (the right?) productivity AND improvements in engagement (sustainably?)…
Whew. That’s a lot to imagine. And, even more to assume in the individuals at work, in every moment. So, if we need some sort of return for our investment. And, the equation is not one with a fixed solution. Then, how do we understand what we are getting for our engagement activities?
This return matters a whole lot.
Engagement [in productivity] is the reason for everything. No matter what activity you have taken on to develop the organization or your people, the investment is, primarily, for the business.
Think about it. Why has there been an investment in leadership development, culture initiatives, health benefits, strategic change processes, plans to foster diversity… (okay, you get the idea)?
Answer: To engage your people in (better) performance.
[And, then to keep them showing up and wanting to engage in more.]
To have a return implies there is one answer to one equation.
Engagement in productivity is not a simple equation. Simple equations can be solved (1+1+1=3), but complex problems may only be managed, amongst layers and layers of fragmented pieces of the bigger problem.
What does that mean? No matter how great any one of your projects becomes, somebody has to understand what that one solution offers as a part of the whole issue (as well as, how that part affects the other projects that have been invested in!).
It means that if you attain employee engagement, at any given moment, you may not achieve the right levels of productivity. And, vice versa. Complex problems, like this one, require systems thinking – and we haven’t done enough of that.
Systems thinking allows for many answers, or returns.
Systems thinking is an approach to problem solving in which we can explore the relationship between every part of the issue, in relation to the whole – with the understanding that improvements in one may adversely affect another. (Sounds like a day-in-the-life of a HR Director!)
In managing the layers of business activities from both perspectives, we sure could use a model to run a few scenarios on – as situations change. This is what has been missing in the way HR has been structured. There have been a number of ‘fixed solutions’, from each of the separate HR activities/tools, which became like puzzle pieces that never really fit together – at least not simply or quickly enough.
Engaged Productivity™, the subject of my research, enables systems thinking. It is one systems language that speaks from both perspectives (the organization’s and the individual’s) – and links them both to the changing business needs. It is a way of modeling engagement in productivity for HR and for business leaders to have a dynamic view of how to manage many returns to their activities, even as thing change.
Return(s) on Engagement [through models of Engaged Productivity]
As with any system, there is input. Your people answer one set of questions, expressing how they choose to perform, that populates the systems information used in the models.
Imagine comparing a behavioral model of ‘how your people are likely to perform’ to a business model of ‘how the work needs to be performed’.
How cool would that be? You would know how to engage your people, individually and in teams – more meaningfully – in the performance you need them to do (because they told you how!). And, you would be able to use that information to look at the other layers, or your projects that provide parts of the whole solution, to this systemic problem.
You would have a dashboard-like view from both perspectives, using the same language.
Just think of it. Now, your people can drive your business, instead of your business driving your people. (Now, this sounds MUCH more engaging – and productive.)
Next up… Letting your people drive your business – with engagement as the key.
We may have a dashboard, but how do they drive the business?
Engaged Productivity™ encompasses revolutionary new thinking to solve the employee engagement challenge in quick, precise and predictive ways.
Learn more about Engaged Productivity™.
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