Employee Engagement: Let The Fakery Begin - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
IT Life
Commentary
11/26/2014
08:37 AM
Grumpy IT Guy
Grumpy IT Guy
Commentary
100%
0%

Employee Engagement: Let The Fakery Begin

It's a good thing HR isn't in charge of IT employee retention. Their new "employee engagement" campaign is really "employee enragement."

Overheard during an HR "employee engagement" workshop: "Work on human capital so you can ask employees for discretionary effort."
 
Go away, HR. Come back when the double-talk fit has passed.

Here at BigCorp, bosses are "discovering" that (gasp) if employees hate the company, they don't work as well. Translation of the HR double-talk: "Be nice to people and they'll go the extra mile for you." Now, that was worth the $100,000 consultant, wasn't it?
 
But hey, it's the "brand new" science of employee engagement. It's social science! We did a survey! What are you, a hater?

[Will some cool tech toys make the Grumpy IT Guy less grumpy? Look at 10 Smart Tech Toys For Kids.]

Here is the problem. The thing that causes DIS-engagement is saying stupid stuff like, "Build up human capital so that you can ask workers for discretionary effort," and treating common sense as if it's super-complex science beyond the ken of normal people. The smug doubletalk attitude causes enragement, not engagement.

Many employees here are disenchanted with how the company treats them. They are disenchanted because they feel like a cog in a machine, not like the "most important asset" of the company, despite this HR platitude.

We are now to follow HR's lead on how to manage or browbeat our employees into engagement nirvana.

Except, management by platitude and mandatory meetings is rarely successful. And a manager's actions speak louder than words. If I exhorted my IT team to "be engaged" at the same time as (for example) micro-managing them, I doubt it would do any good.

How about: Stop acting like you're smarter than your employees. Treat them like human beings. Stop managing by platitude.

It is uncomfortable to disagree with HR. Generally, at BigCorp IT, we do not talk about the HR buzzwords-of-the-day because we don't want to demoralize our employees. Is this us being "disengaged?"

Probably.

Two things:

  1. If you want people to be engaged, be engaging. Don't tell people to be engaged and then be shocked when they are not.
  2. "Engagement" is voluntary. In other words, if it's about our "discretionary effort" as leaders, quit shoving it down our throats. Stop wasting our time. Quit forcing us to spend six hours of offsite "training" on how to make employees enraged... er, engaged.

A message for BigCorp bosses everywhere: you want engagement? You want employees to stop rolling their eyes when you talk? You want voluntary extra effort? Stop treating us like kindergartners and start trusting us. Start being straight with us. Stop telling us part of the story. Start giving us details without super-careful press-release type language. Stop the complicated consultant-speak. Start talking in language that shows that you're not trying to impress anybody.

Most of all, if you want us to feel like we are the most important asset of the company, show us. Don't tell us.

Apply now for the 2015 InformationWeek Elite 100, which recognizes the most innovative users of technology to advance a company's business goals. Winners will be recognized at the InformationWeek Conference, April 27-28, 2015, at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Application period ends Jan. 16, 2015.

Grumpy IT Guy avoided historic disasters and clueless people while working his way up the IT ranks, but he retained his keen sense of humor. He now leads an IT organization somewhere in America, as part of the FBI's Grump Protection Program. Need advice? Send questions to ... View Full Bio
We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
<<   <   Page 3 / 3
Michael Endler
50%
50%
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
11/26/2014 | 12:25:47 PM
Re: Obvious but worth a mention
"In my experience the social sciences tend to point toward stuff we knew all along."

Indeed, there's ample evidence from recent studies that the way a lot of employers operate is soul-crushing and completely antithetical to the goal of building camaraderie or employee investment. Not that the people who should be paying attention to this stuff always do so.
Michael Endler
50%
50%
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
11/26/2014 | 12:05:04 PM
Re: "HCM" lingo has to go
"Do you think this whole dehumanizing of people began when mass layoffs came into vogue and cutting employees was viewed as one of the easiest ways to improve results for shareholders?"

I think that's some of it, which raises the question of how much social pressure shareholders deserve for this kind of practice. Once upon a time, a decent number of employees at these companies actually were shareholders, but statistics tell us that today, this is far, far from the case. Some shareholders have experienced this sort of disrespect themselves, I imagine, but one also wonders at many companies how many people executing  or benefiting from dehumanizing policy are even aware of - let alone troubled by - their actions. If we're talking about someone who gets a higher dividend or some executive who gets a bonus due to these sorts of policies, I think they have an ethical obligation to think about where their good fortune came from.
kstaron
100%
0%
kstaron,
User Rank: Ninja
11/26/2014 | 11:24:12 AM
Obvious but worth a mention
In my experience the social sciences tend to point toward stuff we knew all along. We all know honey get more flies than vinegar. Are we really surprised it's different in business? If a kid feels listened to they are less likely to engage in bad behavior to get attention. If a friend feels like you care they will share the latest gossip,  help you with your next move and in general be a help to you. If an employee feels like they matter to the company, they feel like part of the company and will work harder and take pride in their work. This is nothing new. But as often as it is forgotten, it's always good to be reminded. How you treat others always counts for something. Which leads to the question If you have disengaged employees what can you do about about it? (Not what can you tell them about it.)
Shea Heaver
50%
50%
Shea Heaver,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/26/2014 | 10:54:48 AM
Engage Employees in the Engagement Process
No pulled punches in this article....and kudos for calling it as you see it.

As mentioned, the biggest problem is that the engagement process is still viewed as a management or HR function.  

Yet todays employee expects a more agile and empirical approach to workplace culture improvements rather than periodic (usually annual) directives from above.  Staff need to be empowered to identify and correct their own areas of concern.  

As the article points out "..start trusting us", because once this happens the rolled eyes become rolled-up sleeves with increased morale, loyalty and productivity.
Alison_Diana
100%
0%
Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
11/26/2014 | 10:54:06 AM
Re: "HCM" lingo has to go
Do you think this whole dehumanizing of people began when mass layoffs came into vogue and cutting employees was viewed as one of the easiest ways to improve results for shareholders? 
Alison_Diana
IW Pick
100%
0%
Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
11/26/2014 | 10:49:17 AM
Re: The key to engagement: a team-building exercise [Ack!]
The best "team building exercise" is working together on a real problem and coming together to a solution, often using really boring tools like email or Dropbox or Google Docs or a conference call, if managed skillfully so the usual person or three people don't dominate the conversation. It's a great feeling when a team -- whether it's the entire department or a small group -- comes up with the answer to something or figures out a new source of revenue, new feature, or other opportunity. You automatically feel a bond with your peers that no forced exercise ever comes close to recreating. So the best thing managers (or HR) can do is improve transparency and encourage top brass to throw open problems -- even the biggest problems -- to employees. By making employees part of the solution, they buy into the ultimate resolution and build tighter bonds than any consultant could ever come up with.
MedicalQuack
IW Pick
100%
0%
MedicalQuack,
User Rank: Moderator
11/26/2014 | 10:40:29 AM
People Don't Work that Way...
This is good to see someone besides me take on Algo Duping.  That's what it is and I have written about it many times..read this..."People Don't Work that Way" inspired by one of the smartest Quants and professors out there who wrote black box code for Goldman for years..

http://ducknetweb.blogspot.ch/2014/05/people-dont-work-that-way-world-of.html

If you want more on algo duping, collection at the Killer Algorithms page with videos created by people a lot smarter than me will tell you all about it..

http://www.ducknet.net/attack-of-the-killer-algorithms/
Lorna Garey
IW Pick
100%
0%
Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
11/26/2014 | 10:28:02 AM
Re: The key to engagement: a team-building exercise [Ack!]
So true. Why no, I do not want to spend a day doing pointless whiteboard exercises with coworkers, some of whom are way more skilled than I at feigning enthusiasm, thus throwing in a dash of inferiority angst. I don't care what that $200 an hour HCM consultant told you.
David F. Carr
100%
0%
David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
11/26/2014 | 10:00:18 AM
The key to engagement: a team-building exercise [Ack!]
My own most hated practice is the team-building exercise, something I've encountered in volunteer organizations as well as at work. If at all possible, I find a way to be abscent while this sort of farce is underway.

Team-building exercises do not build teams. Working together productively on work that actually accomplishes something: much better.
D. Henschen
IW Pick
100%
0%
D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
11/26/2014 | 9:50:06 AM
"HCM" lingo has to go
I completely agree with these points. The dehumanizing first offense is calling this category "human capital management." It's like somebody made this up just so it could be a three-letter acronym and cost more money. Whenever a writer wants to make sure people understand, the just call them "HR apps," because everyone knows what that means. I don't mind being thought of or described as a "resource," but please don't call me "human capital." I've bought into the "HCM" TLA in a lot of my coverage of that category, but this column has me thinking I should boycott and just call them HR apps.
<<   <   Page 3 / 3
Commentary
Study Proposes 5 Primary Traits of Innovation Leaders
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  11/8/2019
Slideshows
Top-Paying U.S. Cities for Data Scientists and Data Analysts
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  11/5/2019
Slideshows
10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2020
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  11/1/2019
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
State of the Cloud
State of the Cloud
Cloud has drastically changed how IT organizations consume and deploy services in the digital age. This research report will delve into public, private and hybrid cloud adoption trends, with a special focus on infrastructure as a service and its role in the enterprise. Find out the challenges organizations are experiencing, and the technologies and strategies they are using to manage and mitigate those challenges today.
Video
Current Issue
Getting Started With Emerging Technologies
Looking to help your enterprise IT team ease the stress of putting new/emerging technologies such as AI, machine learning and IoT to work for their organizations? There are a few ways to get off on the right foot. In this report we share some expert advice on how to approach some of these seemingly daunting tech challenges.
Slideshows
Flash Poll