Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Employee Engagement: The Great HR Credibility Killer

Today's post is brought to you by my friends and colleagues, Dr. Scott Mondore and Dr. Shane Douthitt.  If you haven't' read their books listed them.  If you haven't heard them that.  

Guest Bloggers: Scott Mondore, PhD ( and Shane Douthitt, PhD ( They are the authors of two best-sellers on talent management and HR Analytics (Investing in What Matters: Linking Employees to Business Outcomes and Business-Focused HR: 11 Processes to Drive Results) and the managing partners of Strategic Management Decisions ( only talent management platform with integrated business outcome analytics.

OK, let’s get this straight: Gallup sends out a new report to tell us that Disengaged employees are at an all-time high. I’m sure there’s good reason for that with the economy being where it is. But this chart is absolutely absurd.

In 13 years, the needle hasn’t moved on engagement! What about all the money that organizations have spent on the Q12 and countless other surveys that claim to measure and drive ‘engagement’? What about all the consulting and so-called ‘best practices’ that are supposed to drive ‘engagement’? The HR profession has attached itself to another fad (see “empowerment”, “satisfaction” etc) that is touted as a savior and turns out to be a credibility killer. At some point, HR needs to step up and be actual business partners that only talk about, and drive, actual business results. The term ‘engagement’ was coined 20 years ago—and we still don’t have an agreed upon definition. We still don’t have any evidence that it consistently drives business outcomes.

Studies that say things like “organizations that score in the top 20% of engagement have a 40% higher stock return” are not real studies. This is not real research, and this is the laziest approach to data analysis available. It’s like saying that women named Cathy make 40% more money than other women. Should you just change your name to Cathy and watch your 40% raise come through?
There’s also no target number that organizations should strive for. At what point do you reach the perfect balance of engagement that maximizes results? Is it 4.5 out of 5? 4.6? NO ONE KNOWS. If your answer to leaders is “we just need more of it”, that’s a credibility killer.

Since we don’t know much about engagement (the value, the definition, the target), is it any wonder that front-line managers see little value in it and regard it as a BARRIER to their actual work? In our first book, we asked a simple question: “How much damage has been done by the book ‘First, Break All the Rules’”? Based on how much money organizations spend on poorly designed surveys and expensive, non-impactful consulting, the damage is quickly rising. ‘I have a best friend at work’ is a credibility killer.

We now have everyone saying that social media in the workplace will ‘drive engagement’, that frequent crowd-sourced performance reviews will drive engagement (even though we can’t get leaders to do one performance review, one time a year!). We have big consulting firms now talking about transformational engagement and sustainable engagement. When did we ever figure out regular, ol’ engagement? Re-branding a topic and calling it the next big thing is a credibility killer.

There is a better way. You can conduct an employee survey and connect the results to business outcomes. You can show leaders the exact areas of their management style and work environment that they can work on to maximize real business results (profits, sales, productivity, safety etc). You can get front-line manager buy-in by giving them the training/tools to work on business drivers. You can create metrics around business drivers instead of chasing a nebulous engagement score. You can rate your performance as an HR department based on the organization’s business outcomes and not around a vanity engagement benchmark/percentile score.

It’s only a matter of time before the next silver bullet phrase is coined, the next fad is born and the next HR credibility-killer creeps into our work. Let’s focus on driving business results and get our credibility back.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Debrief on #SHRM13

Well, It's my first day back in the office following SHRM's Annual Conference.  The theme was "Becoming More" which I really liked as I believe as HR professionals we need to always strive to become better at what we do.

I wanted to hit a few highlights:

1) The opening session on Sunday was really good.  Fareed Zakaria opened for Hilary Clinton and both gave a very optimistic view of the future of our country and both emphasized talent as being a competitive advantage for the USA.  It was a good opening to the next few days.

2) The variety of programming was really good.  Upon talking with MANY attendees, whether SPHR, GPHR, entry or senior level, there was something for almost everyone.

3) I was really excited to have 1300+ in my "Moving from HR Metrics to Analytics" presentation.  I can remember talking about metrics with 10 people in a room.  I feel as if the conversation is definitely changing from "why do I have to measure HR?" to "I must measure HR."

4) I was able to reconnect and have great conversations with fellow colleagues, bloggers, clients and new friends.

5) The opening session on Day 2, was by far my favorite.  I love a good story.  Tom's Shoes founder, Blake Mycoskie told his inspirational story of starting Tom's shoes.  He said, "You can do good by doing good."  I believe that.

6) The exhibit hall was amazing.  I was able to visit so many vendors and chat about what is new and exciting.  I am sure the calls will start next week...LOL.

7) The extracurricular activities were awesome.  From dinners, to the Tweetup, and Kelly Clarkston,  a fun time was had for sure.  What happens in Chicago, stays in Chicago!

I missed Gabby Gifford and her husband's session on Wednesday as I was on my way back.  From  all the social media channels, it sounds as if they were awesome as well.

So, I think its great to take a few days to "become more."  I needed to become more informed.  I needed to become more connected.  I needed to become more of a subject matter expert.  I think I accomplished all of that in Chicago.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

10 Ideas to Get the MOST at This Year's SHRM Conference

SHRM's national conference is right around the corner, June 16-19 in Chicago.  I am really looking forward to this year's conference not only because your's truly is speaking on Monday, but I can't wait to see all my buddies. (shameless plug, come see me if you are attending).

I think to get the most out of your conference experience you need a definite plan before you get there.  If you are like me, you get to a conference, especially one that is as big as SHRM's and you get swept up in the moment and get distracted by all the shiny objects.

So here are a few tips:

1) Find out where all the cool parties are.  You see were my priorities are.  Jessica Merrill Miller has made that easy for you over at her blog,  She actually has a SHRM party guide.  Brilliant.

2) Download the conference AP.  It is a great way to stay organized and tag the sessions you don't want to miss.

3) Get involved in the conversation.  Get on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn and see what the hot topics are at the conference.  Search the hashtag #shrm13

4) Meet NEW people.  Network.  That's all I have to say about that.  You can't have a network that is too big or too smart.

5) Go to the exhibit hall and don't make a beeline to the food and drinks.  See what is going on in our space.  Chat with vendors, see demos, be curious.  So what if they get your card and email you, they may just have good info that you need.  Hey, sometimes the conference swag is awesome!

6) If you are truly interested in a topic, say HR Metrics (I may know someone) for example, don't be afraid to meet the speaker, ask the speaker a burning question.  It's all about learning something new.

7) If you are going with a group, don't just hang with the people you know, see #4.

8) See the sights of the host city.  Go in a day early or stay an extra day to check out what Chicago has to offer.

9) Visit the SHRM bookstore.  There are so many good books, on so many subjects. It's hard to pick just one.

10) Share your knowledge.  Don't just go to the conference and learn and hear about what's new.  Spread the word when you get back to your offices.  Keep that conversation going.

If you plan on going to the conference please feel free to stop by my session and say hello.  You can always find me on Twitter and LinkedIn.