Between Agility and Better Business Outcomes is Employee Engagement
Somewhere in between all the hard work that goes into becoming a more “agile” organization, and the real tangible business outcomes you are aiming for, there is the squishy topic of Employee Engagement.
While this is not a new concept, many companies miss the mark in their efforts to help keep their employees engaged with the work they are doing. Ping pong tables, free beer and even “unlimited” vacation policies may help with recruitment in some cases, but these kinds of perks have close to zero impact on overall engagement.
The first mistake many companies make is how they decide to measure Employee Engagement. Be it out of ignorance or hubris, many companies decide to roll their own measures, surveying their employees with questions like “How challenging is the work?” or even worse “How would you rate your level of engagement?” These are well intentioned questions, but are a little bit too on the nose.
When it comes to measuring employee engagement, I prefer to defer to the experts. You may have smart people working at your organization, but I doubt there is a single person in your company whose life work has been to research what causes employees to be more engaged, thus leading to higher levels of performance and improved business outcomes.
For this, I look to Gallup’s Q12 survey. The amount of research that has been done to arrive at the questions they ask is truly staggering. You can read more about the survey and the research behind it here, but in short, know that they studied over 100,000 teams, comprised of 2.7 million employees. And their research goes beyond just ‘engagement.’ It ties how teams have responded to the survey to their actual measurable performance. Hopefully that is enough to shake you from the idea that you might know more about the topic than Gallup!
The survey itself contains 12 questions, and none of them have anything to do with agility. However, applying frameworks like Scrum or Kanban in a professional manner will often lead to improvements in engagement, and that will be reflected in future survey results. And ultimately, this will lead to higher performing teams, and better business outcomes.
So, understanding where your people are in terms of engagement is the first step towards getting (or staying) on the right track. Any time I engage with a client on a longer term transformation or change project, I always begin by establishing this baseline of general engagement. Running the survey on a regular cadence helps the organization understand whether the changes they are introducing are having an impact (positive or negative) on their employees overall level of engagement.
In my experience, employee engagement has been an excellent predictor of performance – much moreso than many of the usual metrics you hear about from traditional “Agile Transformation” consultants, such as increased velocity, backlog completeness, predictability, etc.
In our next post, we will dig deeper into each of the 12 questions from the survey. We will also analyze specifically how Scrum or Kanban, when applied with professionalism, can help organizations and managers directly address all 12 en route to higher engagement, better performance and improved business outcomes.
If you are interested in improving engagement on your own team or at your own company, feel free to comment or reach out!