Article (December-2021)


Employee Engagement : Beat the engagement & performance blues of organization

Tannistha Chatterjee

Designation : -   Transformational Coach, ICF accredited NLP Master Coach and Human Resources Professional

Organization : -  Hongkong


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Introduction :

Traditionally Performance Management and Employee Engagement were viewed as two separate processes and considered as two separate agenda within the larger Human Resources process. While performance management started as a measurement system directed towards compensation revision, training, identifying top performers and removing the bottom performers; Employee Engagement magnified on the correlation of engagement survey data to organizational outcomes. Today's Performance Management landscape is witnessing a very different demeanour which essentially focuses on how these two critical aspects of HR are married to each other in spirit. Performance Management in the present world should be more value driven Vs being completely compliance driven.

What is Employee Engagement?

A commonplace definition of Employee Engagement is physical, psychological or emotional involvement of the employee while at work. In essence, employee engagement is the emotional commitment which employees have towards an organization.

Any solid Employee Engagement program establishes a very strong emotional bond between the employees and the organization. This involvement happens at organizational as well as managerial level, the latter being the go to person. Employee Engagement programs definitely are strategized and implemented by the human resources department but the managers are equally responsible for driving the motivational levels of the teams and making them feel appreciated for their day-to-day contribution.

What do we mean when we say 'Our workforce is extremely engaged and satisfied'? What kind of behaviour they might exhibit to reflects the fact that they are indeed emotionally involved with their work environment?

Some key behavioural patterns of highly engaged workforce -

Say - They consistently say good things about the organization to their peers, potential candidates, acquaintances and customers, they literally promote the organization and are great supporters.

Stay - They aim to work with the organization in the long run, are stable and intend to grow with the firm.

Strive - They put extra effort in their daily activities, proactively contributes towards business success and takes their performance seriously.

Collaborative - They are effective collaborators and are supportive towards co-workers.

Customer Centric - High customer satisfaction score is an evidence that the employees are giving their best to keep the customers happy, only a highly engaged workforce can consistently provide positive customer experience.

What is Performance Management?

Definition - Performance Management is a process of ensuring that a set of activities and outputs meets an organization's goals in an effective and efficient manner.

Performance management cannot be viewed as a bi-yearly or an annual activity rather it should be an aggregation of different activities put together to form a promising performance management process. It is a process of continuous improvement through feedback and communication aiming at identifying, measuring, developing and recognizing the performance of individuals in alignment with the larger goals of the organization. It is not to be viewed as a mere rating tool to revise compensation and weed out bottom performers rather to be considered as a continued effort to grow, develop, recognise employees and achieve higher engagement levels.

Performance Management Cycle :

Planning and Goals Setting : This phase is about identifying organisational objectives basis the vision, setting up strategies to achieve those objectives, ascertaining the 'Critical Success Factors' (organization's 'Must Haves') and then aligning individual and team goals to the organizational strategy.

Goals should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time bound). At an individual level accomplishments are to be measured in terms of KPIs as well as behavioural goals. Behavioural goals should be further mapped to the different job levels across the organization to be fair and consistent when it comes to performance expectations.

Goal setting was traditionally viewed as an annual activity however due to frequent changes in the business environment which impacts company strategies and expectations from employees many companies are moving towards short term goals with every 3 monthly check-ins to remain more flexible and realistic.

Developing Skills : Post goal setting the focus remains on helping employees develop the skill-sets irrespective whether if it is technical, analytical, and behavioural or leadership skill. Empowering them with the tools that they need to succeed in their respective roles should be the primary focus of the organization, to be more specific responsibility of HR and managers.

Monitoring and Feedback sharing : Regular feedback sharing, mentoring and monitoring the progress makes the workforce more agile, open to feedback and opens up a continuous communication channel. This helps employees to constantly align their progress with the manager's expectations, discuss roadblocks and get real-time suggestions. In parallel, they understand their areas of improvement instantly instead of procrastinating, doing things the way they think is correct and then failing to deliver as expected. If this is diligently followed an open and interactive process could set our employees on a success journey.

Measuring : They say 'What gets measured gets done', it means that regular measurement and reporting helps keep performance on track. In order to prove performance, it is important to measure and substantiate it with tangible data which indicates whether if an employee has under-performed, out-performed or has been able to comfortably match up to the organization's expectations.

Rating : First measure performance and then rate individual performance on a scale of 1-5 is a common practice that employers follow. However, instead of rating employees only on the basis of results it is recommended that they are also rated basis all the data from previous evaluations and overall competencies which includes technical, behavioural and leadership skills.

There are lots of insightful data that pops up from the regular check-ins, feedback sharing sessions and progress monitoring this data could be used to fathom the gaps, create developmental plans and further coach the employees to better prepare them for success. A consistent calibration process ensures that there are proper checks and balances before arriving at the final ratings. It also ensures that a particular manager is not able to be too strict or too lenient with his/her ratings. Refer a Gartner article on Performance Calibration.

Rewards and Recognition : Rewards and recognition programs should be leveraged throughout the year to motivate and appreciate employees because extrinsic motivation which mostly drives performance should not be an annual activity. While extrinsic motivation comes from strong recognition programs intrinsic motivation is a result of lending a purpose and strong sense of alignment with the organization. Nevertheless, the two most obvious ways of valuing employee performance rising out of performance management are pay enhancements including annual bonus and promotions. They could make or break the bond of loyalty and it all depends on how impartial could your process be.

"If You Feel You Are Being Given A Little More That You Thought You Would Earn, Then You Tend To Go Above And Beyond To Restore This Balance" - Harvard Business School Article.
Therefore, it is fair to say that if all of the above are driven positively with an intention to grow, support, recognise, reward employees and arm them with the necessary skill-sets it is bound to enhance employee loyalty, making them more productive and engaged. Both considered as the key driving factors behind improving the organization's profitability. Thus, performance and engagement lay at the heart of any organization's larger success.

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About the Author : Transformational Coach, ICF accredited NLP Master Coach and Human Resources Professional, Hongkong