The Evolution of Employee Engagement

Elen Davies, Director, Expert Services | 26 Mar 2019|

What is a high-performance culture? It’s like good employee engagement, but bigger, broader and better.

Workplace culture. Organisational health. High-performance culture. These terms have become common in boardrooms as companies look to mimic the success of companies with high-profile cultures like Google and Asana.

These organisations share one crucial trait: they know that in a highly competitive marketplace, culture can provide an advantage. It can help attract and retain high-calibre employees, impact organisational performance and boost the bottom line.

But if lots of companies have culture on the agenda, why are they not all seeing the same level of success? Despite how common these terms are, the ideas behind them are often misunderstood.

The limitations of employee engagement

At Temporall, we know the huge benefits a high performance culture can bring – to employees and to company performance.

The connection between employee engagement and company performance is well understood, with over 90% of HR professionals recognising there is a link between the two. Examining employee engagement rates is an excellent way of understanding how employees are feeling and their level of commitment to the company.

But employee engagement has its limitations. The danger in focusing on this alone is that employees may be engaged, but doing completely the wrong thing. Employees who aren’t aligned to the company’s vision and strategy can be passionate, but travelling in the wrong direction. Staff might feel happy and loyal, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re contributing towards business goals. That’s why it’s necessary to take a broader view, and that’s where workplace culture comes in.

Workplace culture is at the heart of organisational health. It’s not just about how happy and motivated staff feel, although there’s definitely a link. It goes deeper, explaining how employees behave and make decisions on a daily basis – something which is particularly useful to know during times of change.

A good workplace culture which is aligned to business strategy has a significant impact on company performance and should also produce high levels of employee engagement and retention.

Demystifying workplace culture

Culture is often defined as the values, behaviours, processes and systems in an organisation that define how real work happens.  Although the values, mission and ideal culture will be defined by the leadership team, it is how these are played out in the day-to-day behaviours of all employees that really shapes the workplace culture.

In today’s environment, organisations face frequent disruptive challenges. Meeting these requires a coordinated response from the whole company ecosystem. In effect, everyone must adapt to address threats to business and support strategic goals. To be successful, the workplace culture will have to change to support this strategy. This can mean everyone from entry level to the top team needs a change in mindset.  

So, having a good culture isn’t about gimmicks or short-term motivation boosters like beanbags and free sushi. Nor is it just about introducing a well-being programme – as excellent as all of these things are. A good workplace culture which is aligned to business strategy has a significant impact on company performance and should also produce high levels of employee engagement and retention.

The evolution of employee engagement tools

It is not only the focus from employee engagement to workplace culture that has changed in recent years. The products and tools to track, measure and, ultimately, improve culture, have evolved too.

Ten years ago, I was working as a consultant for a company that was having problems with retention. At our first meeting, my client handed me a few sheets of paper with employee engagement scores from their annual survey and asked me to figure out what was going on.

The problem was the numbers were six months old and completely out of context. And because their employee engagement was so low, a lot of the people who had taken the survey had now left the company.

It was clear to me even then that the annual paper questionnaire was obsolete. Lots of business leaders and HR professionals wanted real-time data and to understand the sentiment behind what people were saying, not just a crude score.

Employees don’t like them and their insight is limited and time-bound. ‘Survey fatigue’ is so common that using this method risks representing the business as slow, inefficient and not understanding what employees want – the exact traits companies want to avoid.

Methods for measuring employee engagement evolved a little when they shifted towards mobile surveys with fewer questions. The answers were more relevant, the method was quicker and more user-friendly, and regular ‘pulse’ surveys meant the data was more up-to-date.

But even these employee engagement tools can only go so far.

The future of culture: analytics

Culture Analytics is technology which can track and understand what an organisation’s culture is and what impact it has. No one will be surprised that the tools of the future are digital, and these cutting-edge tools turn data into insight that helps leaders take informed action.

Data analytics is already a growing practice in HR. By collecting data about payroll, absences and operations performance, it can give insight into an organisation’s workforce and HR practices. So imagine the questions that could be answered by technology gathering more complex data about every element of company culture.

  • Is our culture evolving to support the strategic choice we are making?
  • Which members of staff have the most social capital, and why?  
  • Do our staff understand what our values are?

These are the kinds of questions Culture Analytics can answer. Not only does it mean that culture can be measured so accurately that it could become the latest KPI, it can use artificial intelligence to predict future trends in the business.

Being an early adopter of culture analytics and an active Temporall customer, Stuart Simms, CEO of Rakuten Marketing, believes that it utilising culture analytics is a cornerstone of managing change. He says: 

​”Culture analytics has helped us to track and measure the impact of change on our business performance. Historically we didn’t ask the right questions and they weren’t regularly supported up by meaningful data in terms of behavioural analysis and psychometrics. Now, not only do we ask the right questions, but more importantly we have the right tools to analyse and truly understand that data on demand.”

Why is this so important? The ultimate goal for any businesses should be astute strategic direction coupled with a great culture.  Employees will know what they’re aiming towards and why. They will feel trusted to go and make it happen and be highly motivated to go and achieve it.

No longer should organisations focus on employee engagement alone. It’s time to measure company culture in order to create healthy organisations and high-performing workplaces.

Get in touch to learn more about how Temporall can help your company become an even greater high-performing workplace.

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