Employee engagement is a by-product of organisational performance – not the other way round

July 30, 2014

Do you remember that McGraw-Hill ad with the scowling, bald-headed man with the bow tie staring at you from his executive chair saying?:

  • “I don’t know who you are.”
  • “I don’t know your company”
  • “I don’t know your company’s products”
  • “I don’t know what your company stands for”
  • “I don’t know your company’s customers”
  • “I don’t know your company’s record”
  • “I don’t know your company’s reputation”
  • “Now what was it you wanted to sell me”

I get a little exasperated sometimes when I read yet another article on how to motivate your employees because my experience is that employee engagement is the ultimate dependent variable. So to illustrate this, I’ve rewritten the McGraw ad.

“I don’t know what our company stands for”

“I don’t know our company’s goal”

“I don’t know why no one asks me for my opinion”

“I don’t know how my job contributes to customer satisfaction”

“I don’t know how the company is travelling”

“I don’t know whether my performance is up to expectations”

“I don’t see much evidence of teamwork despite the talk”

“Now what was it about employee engagement you wanted to ask me?”


Do you have a corporate goal?

July 18, 2014

leading people I’m not talking about some corporate vision; in the first instance, I’m talking about a SMART goal, one that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, a Result and Time-related. But a corporate goal should be much more than that.

I recall a Director of a company that I worked for telling the assembled members of a regional office that the company’s goal was to make an overall 10% return on assets employed within three years. Were the staff energised by this revelation? Did they even comprehend what the Director was on about? And if, by some minor miracle, the answer to both these questions was “yes”, would they have understood their role in the goal’s achievement?

To be effective – and far more effective than the vast majority of corporate visions – the corporate goal, in addition to being SMART, needs to display the following characteristics.

a)         It should be understandable to everyone with the minimum of explanation

b)         Everyone should have a role to play in its achievement

c)         It should act as the wellspring of all subsidiary objectives and strategies

d)         It should align the whole organisation behind its achievement

e)         It should promote teamwork and employee empowerment

f)          It should be at the top of the hierarchy of dependency

As Rob Fyfe, ex CEO of Air New Zealand put it – ” A highly motivated community of people working cohesively towards a common goal with a shared sense of purpose …. will almost always outperform an opposition focused primarily on the bottom line, on financial ratios and technical superiority”.

Does the above statement by Rob Fyfe mean that Air New Zealand doesn’t focus on profitability and other financial ratios? Of course not! But it’s not its primary focus and management believes that if Air New Zealand becomes the airline of choice on the routes that it flies, it will lead to higher load factors, less discounting, lower variable costs and ultimately higher profits.

It’s not easy to identify a corporate goal that is both SMART and meets those six additional criteria. But my Customer Feedback Surveys can provide one. These surveys not only provide an overall customer satisfaction index, they also provide that data by individual client and in comparison with my client’s direct competitors. What’s more, they measure the performance of every function within my client’s organisation. High satisfaction levels are not the responsibility of the few, they should involve every employee in your organisation up to and including the CEO. If you do not have a direct or indirect role to play in customer satisfaction, you have to ask yourself what you are doing there. Moreover, high satisfaction levels can only be achieved by “a highly motivated community of people working cohesively towards a common goal with a shared sense of purpose.”

My conclusion is that if you look after your customers, the profit will look after itself.

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