We are pleased to bring you a guest blog post today from Mollie Lombardi, Research Director, Human Capital Management, at Aberdeen Group. She has surveyed and interviewed thousands of end-users to better understand the key challenges facing today’s HR and talent management leaders, as well as uncover the Best-in-Class strategies, capabilities, tools and technologies they are using to address those challenges. She has written and spoken about a wide variety of HCM topics including strategic talent management, workforce planning, employee engagement, talent acquisition and learning, as well as the use of emerging technologies.
By Mollie Lombardi
Employee engagement is a topic I’ve been researching, writing and speaking about for over a decade. It’s a seemingly perpetual human capital buzz word that has been at the core of countless projects, technologies and imitative, often with mixed results. Some people may be sick of the buzzwords, but there’s a reason I’m still talking about it. And that is because engagement, as I and my research here at Aberdeen have defined it, is all about alignment. It’s all about how you tap into the skills, desires and motivations of an individual and align them with what the business needs to achieve its goals, with the intent to achieve more for individuals and the organization. Companies today are looking to engagement as a powerful lever to power growth, agility and innovation.
Just a few weeks ago I published a research study of over 400 organizations called The Engagement / Performance Equation. In it, I describe the powerful connection between employee engagement, and employee (and in turn organizational) performance. Best-in-Class organizations, those with the highest levels of engagement, individual performance, and retention of key talent also saw almost double the acceptance rate of first choice candidates when hiring, twice the ability to fill leadership roles internally, and three and a half times greater year-over-year improvement in both customer retention and revenue per Full Time Equivalent (FTE). So if engagement is so powerful, if it can be this kind of silver bullet to boost results, what can your organization do to harness it?
When it comes to delivering engagement and performance, this process starts with goals – both setting them and managing them on an ongoing basis. The top capability overall among Best-in-Class organizations was simply agreement on performance goals between the manager and employee, cited by 88% (as compared to 77% of all others). But where the top performers really differentiate themselves is in the capability to provide ongoing, informal feedback on progress against those goals – something Best-in-Class companies are 66% more likely to do (83% vs. 50%).
This type of ongoing communication isn’t just a happy accident for these top performers either. While some managers have innate skills or dispositions that help them be more engaging leaders that instinctively give great feedback, others may struggle mightily with the concept. There is still often a “code of silence” among managers who hesitate to ask for help gaining the skills they need to engage and manage the performance of their teams. But this gap must be addressed so that managers are given the skills they need to play an active role in improving the alignment of their team and team members with organizational strategy. So it should come as no surprise that Best-in-Class companies are 81% more likely to provide managers with training and tools on strategies for engaging employees (56% vs. 31%), and 24% more likely to train managers and supervisors to deliver effective performance reviews (57% vs. 46%). Giving better feedback, helping team members set proper goals, and the ability to track and communicate progress are things that can be learned. Companies that want Best-in-Class performance need to consider how they are supporting managers with the tools and training required for setting and managing the right goals that will deliver results.
Engagement and performance truly go hand in hand. Organizations that can balance that equation, and tap into the skills of their managers and leaders to make engagement a reality will be the ones that will seize competitive advantage.