Employee engagement is not an employee’s matter


employee-engagementNumbers vary depending on the source but the trend can’t be discussed : employees are more and more disengaged at work.

As usual, technology invited itself in the debate. Engagement measurement, sentiment analysis…solutions offering to help HR and managers to deal with this challenge proliferate on the market. But they don’t handle the subject in the same way and with the same purposes.

Employee engagement measurement : survey or sentiment analysis ?

First, they differ by the way data are gathered. Some start with a conventional survey approach and propose to measure engagement at an individual and collective level. Others use cognitive computing, big data to conduct sentiment analysis. They use the signals sent by employees for discovering, in real time, what matters and what’s the sate of mind towards these subjects. This second approach supposes a developed and very active internal social media environment (enterprise social network, microblog etc.) to have enough raw material to make a relevant analysis. On the other hand their offer real time indicators. For having seen some prototypes at work on a very active social environment I have to admit I’ve been impressed : it’s possible to detect at a country, department or team level what are the hot topics, the concerns and if employees talk about them positively or negatively. A choice management tool that’s still in its infancy but is destined to a bright future. As for the first approach, it can be used in any situation even if knowing it’s a survey may bias answers.

Anyway and even if targeting the same market, both approaches don’t really measure the same thing and are more complementary than competing.

Disengaged employees or disengaging management ?

They also differ regarding to what they try to measure, what implies two radically opposite approaches to employee engagement. The first approach aims at measuring engagement at an individual or group level and deduce corrective actions. The underlying idea is that engagement issues have to be solved at the employee level. The second approach aims at discovering deficient management lines. The idea is to work at a “zone” level (teams, geography…) and discover the concerned managers. The idea here is that employees are not responsible for their disengagement and that it’s not something they can change but that disengagement is more often caused by managers or something more systemic.

The second approach looks much more promising to me. Disengagement is not something employees decide so it’s useless – and even hurtful – to reproach them anything. Identifying root causes is what matters. So employee engagement is not their responsibility but manager’s.