In analyzing our 2014 trend data from 1,150 organizations, we see that organizations continue to be better at getting results than valuing people. In our 18 years of research, we know that successful organizations are good at both: you have to value people by creating an inspiring mission, providing recognition, and giving people the opportunity to grow. At the same time, work can be frustrating when organizations are inefficient, bureaucratic, or lack effective communication. In our database we often see organizations with gaps between how well they value people and organizational effectiveness, but rarely do those gaps exceed 10 points. This is because these two concepts are intimately intertwined and set the upper limit for one another. In other words, it’s hard to improve effectiveness if employees don’t feel valued and vice versa. You can’t be exceptional at one without also being great at the other.
I worked with an organization that seemed to be doing all of the right things to drive employee engagement. They did their annual engagement survey and were intentional about taking action on key drivers and communicating progress. They focused on things like employee recognition, professional development and teamwork. And yet, employee morale stayed low. I remember the CEO saying, we just need the business to get some “wins” to increase morale. At the time I thought that sounded like an easy way to explain away low levels of engagement, but now after years of analyzing employee engagement data, I believe she was correct.
When we care and are invested in our jobs, we want to see the payoff of our work. We want to work for organizations which are accomplishing things that make us proud. So how do you create such “wins” if your business is going through challenging times? One organization I worked with had very clear and challenging goals and employee communication was always focused on where targets were missed. Yes, these big goals were very important, but it’s also important to remember to celebrate the small wins as the organization takes baby steps toward progress. Doing so will help employees recognize and appreciate the efforts being made to improve effectiveness, and give them a sense of pride in the work being accomplished.
Other organizations are overly focused on getting results at the expense of valuing people. It is not uncommon for us to hear executives explain that their role is to achieve financial results, with no mention of the people that will get them there. In these environments, people may have great pride in their work, but burnout over time if they are not appreciated for the work they do.
As with many things in life, employee engagement is all about balance. To make strides toward achieving this balance, we recommend that executives include the topics of achieving results and valuing people in their communications, in their team meetings, and in what they measure and reward. By intentionally building both topics into policies and procedures of the organization, organizations will make progress on both ends of the spectrum faster than if we focused on one aspect alone.
Written by Dr. Leanne Buehler, VP Consulting Services, Newmeasures