Engagement and Performance are not separate initiatives.

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Employee Engagement

Company leaders often view engagement and performance management initiatives as completely separate initiatives. A disintegrated approach to either is the root of our problems with both.

Engagement and performance. Chicken and egg.

Engagement programs commonly take the form annually administered or pulse surveys. We want to win employees’ “hearts and minds.” We want to drive performance. So, we survey to engage. Unfortunately, when we count the last response, we finally understand. Piles of data, cool dashboards and little else. Take it from me. Engagement surveys’ typical execution leaves a lot to be desired.

Surveys are predictably weak at achieving their most promising opportunity. They’re filled to the brim with non-specific “nice-to-knows.” The plan to “follow-up” on results is the last consideration in their design. Instead, they focus on identifying what drives engagement. And for what? To drive performance of course.

Forget for a moment the argument that engagement and performance are connected at the hip. The fact is that many surveys result in little more than added pressure on strapped HR-budgets and heaps of useless reports. Is it any wonder that strategies expounded from top-leadership sound vacuous to workers at the front-lines?

As Aon Hewitt found, 48% of senior managers reported that engagement assessments were highly valuable. Meanwhile, about half of employees said they had little or no value. Artificially separating these initiatives is damaging. Rather than enable alignment, it serves to divide leaders and employees from what matters most to both.

Skip the survey. Conversations are engaging.

There is one aspect of surveys that employees, managers and leadership seem to agree on. Conversations are the most valuable outcome of surveys. Even Gallup, the pioneer of engagement surveys, knew this was true. They published an article way back in 2006 that opens with this. “Employee engagement surveys can do a lot of good. When employees and managers discuss the results, these conversations can lead to increased engagement, productivity, and profits while reducing turnover and costs.

So, if the conversation between employee and managers is the most direct catalyst for engagement, why not skip the survey and get to the good stuff right away?

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