Thursday, December 10, 2009

The end of employee engagement

It's been many years since we in the HR world started talking about employee engagement. And since that time the following has happened (or not happened):

1. We have no agreement on what engagement is.

2. Many people refer to their employee engagement survey questions when defining engagement.

3. It has become one of HR's most successful fads, with everyone and everybody using it to describe what they do (myself included, albeit I was dragged along unwillingly).

4. We are all very comfortable having no agreement with what it is.

5. No one has an answer to the "engaged in what" question. Think about it for a minute, your employees could be engaged in baking cookies all day; that is probably only good if you are in the business of baking cookies. What about the rest of us?

6. Did you know that there are examples of companies winning the most engaged company awards and then going into bankruptcy a few days later? Is that ok?

7. Did you know that there are conditions under which raising employee survey engagement scores actually leads to lower employee performance? Here's how that works. Manager X has a bonus tied to the engagement survey scores. Manager X gets a low score on a question that leads the manager to take all his/her employees out for fun; make sure they like each other; they like their jobs. Employees start having a great time at work. Employee engagement scores go up; performance goes down.

8. When you don't know what something is (employee engagement) and you spend lots of money on it, and you do not have a calculated return on the investment, some day some other executive will come after your budget. When times get tough, your budget goes away.

9. Employees jump for joy that the employee engagement initiative went away; now they can do their jobs.

10. Firm performance improves because HR is finally done pestering everyone about employee engagement.

Is there a better way? Yes.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

In search of Fast HR

Fast HR is a growing body of work that spells out ways HR can change to meet the needs of today's fast-growth and high change organizations. The recession has brought the need for fast HR into focus because many firms were caught off guard, without line of sight to the changes that were right in front of them.


The proposition of Fast HR is that traditional change management models and tools are not enough. Change management implies that change will finished at some point in time. Today's firms need to learn to thrive on change and build the ability to change into their DNA (read Built to Change by Lawler and Worley to learn more about the agile organization).


A key part of the Fast HR movement is transformation is the HR function. In order to keep up, HR has to speed up. This means that the HR function itself has to change how it is organized, the processes it uses, and the tools it employs; all should be fast.


What companies today are doing to speed up their HR functions and help their leaders be more responsive to client needs and the change in the environment they live in:


* Reorganize using HR pods. This is a new concept that challenges the traditional center of excellence and generalist concept.


* Speed up the traditional, long and slow annual employee survey process so that data is flowing faster to everyone in the organization.


* Get rid of the traditional job posting process; replace it with a fast, more effective method.


* Replace or supplement traditional, time consuming, long 360 develop processes with a faster, shorter process that invites more frequent feedback and faster employee and leader development.


* Move new ideas around the organization faster; use technology tools to help employees take their best practices and share them with others who want to learn from their peers.


Want to start doing Fast HR? Read the article provided in the link on this topic. Try these 5 steps in the exercise below to get started:


1. Meet with your HR team and have them start listing the HR processes they think are too slow and that would be up for change.


2. Ask that same team what HR processes are fast.


3. Deconstruct the fast process and apply the lessons learned to the slowest process you found. Develop a model for speeding up this process and document it.


4. Meet with some of your key leader / manager stakeholders; find stakeholders who are going through high change and who are 'friends' of your team. Get their feedback and ideas on the model for your HR practice. Incorporate their ideas, and rework the model.


5. Make the change; go back to your stakeholders; get feedback; change it again. Then try the process with another HR practice.


In order to share the learning with our readers, please write back and talk to me about some of your slow HR processes. What HR processes do you think should be on the top 10 must speed up list?


Thank you all.