In 3 Words: Why Organisations Fall Short With Employee Engagement Efforts

In 3 Words: Why Organisations Fall Short With Employee Engagement Efforts

– By Derek Carter

We consultants love a good bell-curve, so please indulge me for a minute while I reinforce the cliché! When I think about the organisations I’ve dealt with in the last few years, it’s pretty easy to identify where they fall on the employee engagement bell curve.

One group is that small minority for whom engagement doesn’t show up on their radar at all. In fairness, this is a very small minority these days, but awareness is growing amongst this group, now that their people are starting to exercise career options or chase their own business dreams.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the curve, we see the other minority who are doing everything right and enjoying the impressive results that an engaged and enabled workforce brings (it’s hugely important to engage AND enable – this will be covered in the next post). 

And finally, as you might expect, the majority of businesses out there fall somewhere in the middle of the curve. They know that engagement is important, they have taken SOME steps to measure and improve it, but still they struggle to get the results they want.

Engagement Bell Curve 

Let’s stick with our mid-curve friends a moment longer…

They, like so many other organisations are emerging from a few years of greatly reduced or no investment in their people. Instead, they have spent their money and time trying to hit financial and efficiency targets. These numbers are tangible and progress is easily measured. They’re familiar. They make the CFO and the bank manager feel more in-control and able to predict the future.

But they are all LAGGING indicators.

These results confirm the past and provide a stable platform to go forward from, but they don’t necessarily flag anything about future patterns or cause anything to be different for the next month / quarter / year.

Even if a company is one of those rare breeds that, after creating their glossy, high-flying strategy, actually FOLLOWS THROUGH ON IT, they often fall short on delivering the tangible changes they want. Why?

The answer lies in those 3 words I promised you:

Culture beats strategy.

Every. Time.

A strategy is most often decided at the top and cascaded down through the ranks. It usually consists of some new ideas or insights, identifies priority areas of focus, some important and urgent actions and, of course, some targets to be hit. All normal, predictable, sensible stuff.

So, what’s missing?  The strategy usually misses the “why?” behind the targets. This means that people can’t see a reason to change, they can’t identify the overall purpose of their role, or the difference they are making in the world.

Culture takes time and energy to change, but it CAN be done.

A more people-focused strategy, in addition to the all-important numbers, causes a real shift in the mind-set, behaviours and actions of employees, and drives:

  • a change in employees’ beliefs (and sometimes their underlying values),
  • a fair bit of new learning (and usually a healthy amount of un-learning),
  • a change in what everyone talks about and how they talk about it,
  • a new understanding of how to succeed / be a top performer,
  • a commitment from everybody (or at least a critical mass of people) to execute the strategy, and, critically,
  • a new set of behaviours and tools focused on engagement and enablement.

Executive teams and HR leaders in top performing organisations don’t leave culture to chance. They don’t trust or blindly hope that it will be a winning culture that delivers the strategy.

They know that organisational culture is something to be consciously managed, using a powerful set of beliefs, tools and behaviours. Used in a systematic way, these deliver the efficiency, effectiveness and engagement results that are needed to really deliver on strategic promises.

Yes, this takes consistent effort, but these “3 E’s” can be delivered more quickly than you might think. In fact, you can secure some very quick wins if you introduce some simple tools in the right way…

We’ll talk about the 3 E’s in the next post, but if you can’t wait that long, give us a call to chat about this some more, or get some outside perspective on your own situation. 


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