Vampire HR

The #zombiehr series continues…

Oh happy day! The UK civil service has just published its 2010 staff survey results. 325,119 people (62% of the 528,729 who were invited) took part. What did they tell us? Well for starters 32% believe “I have the opportunity to contribute my views before decisions are made that affect me”. A whopping 38% of the people who replied believe that senior management will take action based on these survey results, and 27% believe change is managed well in their organisation. What that says in relation to achieving the seismic changes that are about to hit the civil service is anyone’s guess. Pick a number – and make it a low one. There are more questions and answers in the survey than you can shake a stick at. Each one of them registers considerably lower on my interest scale than the last.

I posted a link to these results over on David Zinger’s Employee Engagement Network. Jean Douglas was kind enough to get in touch. She notes:

You have to wade through the methodology to find out that the engagement index is calculated in a manner different than what you might think – I am still trying to understand what they did – and this is my field.

Here is their description:

The employee engagement index is calculated as a weighted average of the response to the five employee engagement questions and ranges from 0 to 100. An index score of 0 indicates all respondents strongly disagree to all five engagement questions and a score of 100 represents all respondents strongly agree to all five engagement questions. The 2010 benchmark is the median (midpoint) engagement index of the 103 organisations that participated in the CSPS 2010.

The engagement score is listed as 56%; however, the “%” is misleading. There is no 56% of something. The score is simply 56 (the highest number is 100 – which does not automatically mean it is a percent). It could have been from a range of scores running from 0 to 157).

They have also “mooshed” together the scores in a department (“moosh” is my new statistical term when numbers are added and divided to come up with another difficult to understand index).

They missed some real opportunities here to get at some good predictive results. .

The individual departmental results are more meaningful (except for the engagement score) as they have not done all that mooshing.

Thanks Jean. So basically the civil service is frigging around with numbers and mooshing stuff. That figures.

Beyond the survey we find…the initial findings. The initial findings – there’s a title to stir the soul. The initial findings are about the rationale behind the survey and why it is important to measure engagement. Apparently it is important to measure engagement because:

Engaged employees in the UK take an average of 2.7 sick days per year, the disengaged 6.2 days (Gallup Research, 2003)
59% of engaged employee say their work “brings out creative ideas”, compared to just 3% of disengaged employees (Gallup Research, 2003)
70% of engaged employees indicate that they have a good understanding of how to meet customer needs, compared to 17% of nonengaged employees (Right Management Research, 2006)
Branches of Standard Chartered bank with high levels of engagement have a 16% higher profit margin than branches where it is low (evidence submitted to MacLeod and Clarke, 2009)
Improving engagement levels in branches of the Co-op supermarket has been estimated to save the organisation £600,000 per annum from reduced food wastage. (evidence submitted to MacLeod and Clarke, 2009)

Rotten vegetables aside – this whole project is dull and unimaginitive. Trying to measure engagement sucks. Sucks like a vampire. It sucks cost and it sucks time ( I estimate that the completion of the survey alone took over 6,000 person days). And having gone to all the trouble to measure – the evidence shows us that few believe action will be taken, fewer still believe that any action taken will be managed well.  This sucks. Sucks in a way that the good Count Dracula himself would be proud of.

Stop measuring engagement and just start doing it.

Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

10 thoughts on “Vampire HR”

  1. Absolutely – they suck. Don’t the Frankensteins of Engagement ever ask themselves what it is they have created? No, because they don’t actually care about organisational engagement.

    Where in all of this is the guidance and counsel of HR and Communications? Oh they’ll be the savant “lurches” standing right behind the business colluding with the short sighted leaders who have failed to engage their organisation.

    Spin, smokescreens and statistics don’t engage – they divide. Add on the huge waste of resource and goodwill consumed and you’ve probably moved backwards not forwards…..

    1. david – in the scenario you describe and so many recognise, there’s no probably about it. Backwards ye go. Thanks for your comment.

  2. I rolled out the first employee engagement survey when at QVC. We decided to go for the Great Place to Work. It was a big undertaking and a massive piece of work. The results showed we didn’t rank that highly, but we learned a lot of valuable lessons from doing the exercise. It was a success because all the key players who should have been involved, were involved.

    Employee engagement surveys can be very revealing and important for an organisation. Unfortunately, when they’re not rolled out correctly, they can be a slap in the face against an already cynical workforce.

    1. Hi Sukh

      I’m pleased you learned lessons and I’m pleased you had folk involved (which without wishing to get circular is probably why you learned useful lessons).

      Yes the survey can be revealing – and perhaps the rolling out is just a small part. It’s the doing something later that counts – and in my experience is so regularly ballsed up. Thanks for coming by – I appreciate it.

  3. Nice post Doug. I’ll be pleased to hear your views at our mindstretch(R) on 22nd! I do agree that doing some stuff is better than just measuring it and then doing nothing with the results…. but if you don’t measure in a meaniningful way, how do you know what engages your employees? Certainly what floats one person’s boat may have the opposite effect to the person who sits next to them – and it’s this, rather than the sheep dip, which I believe can make the difference.
    All of which might come from managers having a really good knowledge and understanding of their direct reports. But, according to the gurus (not to mention the Gallups of this world) I’m probably being simplistic…

    1. I’m looking forward to coming along. Simply put – I think simplicity is simply underrated, we can talk more about this when we see each other 🙂

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