The way we’re doing employee engagement now is more about overt bribery and guilt-trips than the process
Creating the type of workplace that people actually want to be connected with is difficult. Companies have it tough. Work is the place people go to five days a week and for the most part spend all of that time thinking about the days they don’t have to be there. How would you like to know that your spouse or significant other was thinking about someone else the whole time they were with you – just waiting for the opportunity to take some time off from you? Not a great feeling.
Well…Companies have feelings too. Or, at least they should.
Engagement Equation: Employee Engagement has been defined as finding ways to get “discretionary effort” from employees by making a workplace more employee friendly. Unfortunately, the way we’re doing it is really more about overt bribery and guilt-trips than engagement. Add enough benefits to the mix and the employee feels guilty and works harder.
Yeah – that’s how I like my engagement – covered in shame with a guilt cherry on top. It’s not about more organic vegetables in the company cafeteria. It’s not about a booth at Burning Man (trust me – this will be a thing some day.) It’s about being real, being human and connecting with employees.
Employers are loading up the benefits hoping the bribes create “discretionary” effort. Too bad all they get is a bit more general effort – not really the ground-breaking, innovating, rough-and-tumble effort that it takes to be an industry leader.
Organizational Discretionary Effort™ (ODE™): If we believe employee engagement is a two-way street and the employer expects the employee to respond to their “gifts” with an increase in discretionary effort then in order to keep the equation balanced the employer should jack up their discretionary effort as well. Right? What’s sauce for the goose and all that. So what is “organizational discretionary effort” you ask?
Simple – organizational discretionary effort is the difference in effort the company is capable of bringing to the employee and the effort required to simply meet legal requirements for having employees. (Our definition – copyrighted, boom.)
In other words – like the definition for employee discretionary effort – it’s the delta between doing the minimum to keep your job (stay out of jail) and doing that little extra that get’s you the raise and promotion (get’s your employees to want to be at work.) What Does ODE look like?
- Requiring greater management training than the average to ensure your managers understand their job is about engaging human beings not hitting targets.
- Having “flexible” guidelines about things that impact humans outside the walls (or time frame) of work in areas like bereavement, medical leave, maternity, family problems.)
- Measuring performance on a more holistic scale of performance – not simply time in the seat or punching the clock.
- Taking time to talk with people and not allowing technology to be a substitute for getting to know someone.
- Requiring your employees to cross-train to “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.”
- Provide mentoring programs (both up and down the hierarchy.)
I could go on…The bottom line is there are a million ways a company can find those discretionary activities that show they are willing and able to be engaged. To me it is a no-brainer. If I want discretionary effort from you – you should expect discretionary effort from me. Together – we’ll balance this whole engagement thing and everyone will be happier, more loyal, and better performing.
ODE Is Not Enhanced Benefits
To be clear – organizational discretionary effort is not just layering in more benefits. Benefits are the easy things every company can do, and in truth, require little effort from the organization as a whole. Add new food to the cafeteria – simple – hit up your commissary supplier. More medical bennies – ask your provider. Better 401K (is that still a thing?) – change financial planners. A few phone calls and your benefits just got way better. But did you use ODE to get there? Probably not.
Benefits are easy to do. The hard things – the things that really show discretionary effort are usually driven by management EFFORT – not HR fiat. ODE is harder. It requires your management to get in there and mix it up. It requires human beings to be human and connect with other human beings. Which is why it is rarely done.
It is so much simpler to just add another pre-packaged, shrink-wrapped, me-too employee benefit to the list and think you’ve gone above and beyond. Unfortunately, that’s a lot like an employee using a different font in a report and thinking they’ve gone above and beyond.
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