While working in my professional job and writing about the work environment I have often come across a concept that Human Resource professionals refer to as employee engagement. It’s a metric that can be used to track how much people like their jobs. For the most part I don’t focus on this because the purpose of this blog is telling the story of the collision points between the professional world and the personal world. If there are collision points, the friction tends not to originate because the professional wants to squeeze in an extra twenty hours a week of their own free will and this annoying life thing is getting in the way (although this does happen for those who are psychotically competitive). It’s usually something along the lines of how they are going to feel like their job is threatened if they don’t put in the extra twenty hours.
It’s still important to understand why this metric exists and what the current thinking is on it. The Harvard Business review has an article on employee engagement. I was struck on how it’s much more it revolved around the environment of the professional worker than the line level worker. In my experience the line level worker is the one who gets the focus of employee engagement because the less an organization spends on its workers the better. Most organizations know it’s less expensive to have an ice cream social including an employee awards luncheon every month than it is to give 1,000 production employees a dynamic environment that includes the areas highest income for that sort of work.
The post talks about ways that companies can measure employee engagement by tracking the following:
- The amount of work that occurs outside of normal working hours (e.g., evenings and weekends). This is a good indicator of discretionary effort.
- This is absolutely an area where Professionals are engaged. Let’s face it, if your filling up bottles of perfume for 40 hours a week, it’s really hard to do that work outside of normal working hours.
- The number of network connections and time spent with people outside of immediate team or region. Building of broad networks beyond core team is a sign of high engagement.
- How many CNA’s have broad networks? Hospital administration professionals, yes, but licensed practitioners of health care? Not so much. Bottom line is that if you are a professional individual contributor then you most likely are well steeped into the world of building network connections. That makes this metric rather weak.. To do our jobs, the PIC’s have to continually drive connections outside of our immediate team or region.
- The percentage of participation in ad-hoc meetings and initiatives vs. recurring meetings and processes. Participation in only highly structured events can be an indicator of low engagement.
- Another skewed metric. Professionals understand that perception is very important. Yes, many of them will not engage in an ad-hoc initiative, but several will because they understand the importance of being on top of a change that may affect their job. This may not be a measure of ‘engagement’ but more of one of ‘disengagement’. If you are so disgusted that you are not taking part in something important even if it will make your life easier, then things have to be really bad.
- Time spent collaborating directly with customers outside of normal scope of work. This and other measures like it can indicate people are highly engaged enough to help their colleagues even though they might not get credit for it.
- This metric may have less to do with getting more engaged as it does measure if the individual is dynamic in their interactions. For example I collaborate with customers outside of work because of personal initiatives. By default this brings in conversations about work.. But it’s not the work that keeps me engaged.
The Article goes on to talk about several other factors of employee engagement, but they all fall along the same lines. Employee engagement, or the metrics relating to it are all in the world of the professional. It’s not about an annual survey that includes the question “would you recommend this job to others”. On the positive side, it’s nice that this is an area getting some attention. On the negative side, the professional environment is very complex, and the article makes it a point to identify how this complexity makes it tremendously difficult to really quantify and measure ‘engagement’.
This is a subject to mull over, I think I may do it at my local soda shoppe with a waffle cone, I think i’ll be more engaged in my work that way.
Great article, Mike. I look forward to reading and sharing more.