In the late 2000s, researchers faced difficulty in trying to develop a cure for the Lou Gehrig’s disease (Spradlin, 2012). They struggled with the inability to detect and track the progression of the disease in a fast and accurate manner, which led to increased investments in clinical trials and lengthened studies, but with few treatments being developed and evaluated.
Then came Prize4Life, a non-profit organisation. Instead of searching for a cure, they redefined the problem as a need to make the research process more feasible and effective. This led to the emergence of a non-invasive, painless, and low-cost method to detect Lou Gehrig’s disease and assesses its progression in an accurate and timely manner.
This example is rooted in Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman’s research (Tversky & Kahneman, 1981) on the power of the framing effect. Simply put, the way we define a problem will define the methods we employ to go about solving it, and the solutions we eventually derive.
How does this relate to employee engagement?
The way organisations define ‘engagement’ can greatly influence the outcomes they derive. Increasingly, we see organisations setting engagement score as a KPI on their managers’ scorecards. As a result, managers grow to view engagement as an end in itself, rather than a means of achieving greater productivity and business performance. This could result in a few outcomes:
Managers become more interested in managing perceived, rather than actual engagement.
Employees are pressurised to provide feedback based on what the management wants to hear, rather than what they actually feel.
Root issues are less likely to come to the surface, much less addressed. This increases challenges with retention, with Aon research showing that high performers have the greatest flight risk under these circumstances.
Employee engagement becomes a paper exercise, with increasing lack of trust in the management’s commitment to improve the employee work experience.
So, how are Aon Best Employers in Singapore reframing the problem?
1. Engagement is a means of driving greater productivity and business performance
For Aon Best Employers, the problem changes from “How can we increase our engagement score?” to “How can managers improve work experience for employees in a way that makes them more productive?” The Aon Best Employers 2018 study reveals that Singapore organisations with above average levels of engagement are twice as likely to have linked engagement scores to performance metrics such as productivity, absenteeism, safety, and quality of outcomes.
2. Managers are expected to drive engagement through their own actions
Rather than setting the engagement score as a KPI for their managers, Aon Best Employers measure the ability of their managers to display engaging leadership behaviours. 83% of Aon Best Employers in Singapore implement mechanisms such as Leadership Assessments and 360-degree Feedback in order to empower managers with effective feedback on how their leadership style influences their teams’ engagement (market average, 67%).
As these engaging leadership behaviours are rooted in action, it would be challenging for managers to game the system in pursuit of higher ratings. It becomes clear to employees that, instead of assessing their manager’s motivations, values or beliefs, they are assessing the extent to which their managers have displayed the required behaviours in a consistent and credible manner.
3. Trust and credibility are top priority
For engagement to happen, organisations must fulfill the fundamental importance of building trust and credibility. And while more employers are taking a continuous listening approach by seeking feedback from their employees year-round (instead of just once a year), this can only be effective in building trust and credibility when paired with continuous action on the feedback received. 78% of Aon Best Employers in Singapore are confident that survey results collected will be acted upon by management, compared to a market average of just 60%.
For engagement to be effective as a means of driving greater organisational performance and productivity, it requires strong commitment from the management to the employees. And while managers are key enablers in making engagement happen, they must be measured by the right KPIs to drive the right leadership behaviours—and ultimately, the best possible outcomes for business.
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Need help with creating a culture of engagement in your organisation, or want to find out more about how to become an Aon Best Employer? Get in touch with us.