You Won't Improve Engagement with Slide Decks
One of the biggest problems with our current approach to employee engagement is our never-ending focus on pain points. All engagement surveys seek to draw out pain points—the questions that have the highest percentage of “unfavorable” responses are the ones we focus on. There is obviously logic to this: find out what people are frustrated with, and then fix it.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work (if it did, quite frankly, we’d have much higher engagement numbers after 20 years of effort). Part of the problem is that once we identify the pain point, we then task a group with “fixing” it, and that often ends up with some sort of slide deck being sent out to the whole organization that simply declares that this pain point must be fixed. As we mentioned in our book, the Non-Obvious Guide to Employee Engagement, we knew of an organization with low scores in their engagement survey around agility, and the last page of the task force slide deck literally said “don’t just say your agile, BE agile!”
Be agile? That’s it?
This is why we’re failing, folks. If agility is indeed a problem, you’re not going to fix it by telling people to be agile. You need to re-draw your organizational chart. You need to change decision making processes. You need to figure out how to put more information online so the right people have the right in formation at the moment they need to make a decision. You need to measure decision-making bottlenecks and start holding senior managers accountable for removing them. And those are just some generic examples—the real things you’d need to do would be tied to your situation specifically.
The point is, you don’t need a slide deck—you need a playbook.
You need a fairly long list of things you are going to do or at least experiment with that will move the needle on agility. Some plays are going to be quick wins, and some are going to be long-term, expensive endeavors, but the point is you’re constantly running and adjusting your plays. When the quick ones are over, you bring in a new one.
This is exactly what we do in our Culture Design projects. It’s never good enough to identify your ideal culture—you have to come up with a specific path for shifting the patterns in your culture in the right direction. Once you fix the patterns, your people will become more successful, and THAT’S what improves the engagement.