#NZLEAD RECAP: Engagement and Performance

AlisonnzleadWeek three of July’s spotlight on engagement saw our focus move to the link between engagement and performance.

After three weeks of discussion there is still a lack of consensus as to what it actually means to be ‘engaged’.   It clearly means different things to different people and subsequently, is perceived to be more or less valuable by different people.

Does it matter if we can’t agree on the definition of engagement? Provided that organisations that measure the concept have a solid understanding and definition of what engagement means to them, what they hope to get out of it and most importantly that they do get outcomes from going through the process, perhaps not?

Experience tells us that pursing anything without having a clear idea of what we are trying to achieve and what it will look like when we get there is likely to result in lessor outcomes than if clarity and purpose was defined at the beginning. Which leads to the link to performance.  Once we have defined what engagement means for an organisation, surely one must then define the outcomes that can expect to flow from achieving it?

There is oodles of data and insight out there that prove the link between engagement and performance, an example of which was kindly provided by Scott Duncan  here  but as Richard Westney pointed out, “do any orgs ever measure engagement alongside productivity? Doubt it”.

So do these lack of performance metrics within organisations make the measure of engagement redundant? Absolutely not, but certainly there is the opportunity for organisations to get clearer on what internal performance metrics they link with engagement to better target interventions and demonstrate true ROI.

Organisational performance metrics are one thing but performance at the individual level opened up another debate.  In response to Andrew Burner’s comment that “people with the capability to perform do when engaged, and don’t fulfill their potential @ work when not”, Neil Usher asserts that “its quite possible to perform to your max for yourself, you don’t have to be “engaged”.

Is engagement a prerequisite condition for good performance, or is it more about your individual motivation and work ethic?  While the latter can certainly be true, as Amanda Sterling points out “it would take a boat load of intrinsic motivation”.  And, while high performers may perform at their best regardless of climate or culture, how likely is it that they will be able to maximize outcomes that involve collaboration with others in a low engagement environment?

Finally, as a follow up to this energetic discussion Perry Timms contributed his Motown blog, his take on a highly successful organisation where people, he asserts, were rarely engaged with the organisation itself.

To my eyes Perry actually makes a strong case for engagement  – enabling employees to be part of something bigger than themselves, in an environment where they can be brilliant is what creating highly engaged organisations is all about. The organisation then reaps the rewards of having invested in creating a place where people are energized, committed and contributing more.

Agree or disagree, it’s a great read and rounds off what was a great discussion on engagement and performance.



ROI for HR: the Holy Grail. If we can get it right, how awesome would that be? I do feel like we’re making progress towards working this one out, but after Thursday’s tweet chat, I don’t think ROI is the right way to label it – not the complete package anyway.

Measures for the success of HR initiatives are broader than monetary return. For starters, the consequences of HR initiatives are not necessarily monetary. @HRManNZ suggests outcomes such as a stronger brand, candidate attraction, market reputation, and being an employer of choice. Secondly, as @lizardvanilla pointed out, it is hard to measure the success of a single initiative because there are so many business conditions at play – how do you link a monetary return to one thing? It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t though and simply asking; “what changes do you expect to see from XX initiative?” establishes leading indicators of performance.

Using measures proves the value that HR adds to the business. However, these measures need to be aligned to operational outputs, not just HR outputs. A good starting point suggested by @MJCarty is to mirror measures that the CEO, COO and CFO already report on. In so doing, we should align measures to business strategy and vision and achieve greater operational and strategic support.

As HR professionals we have an opportunity to do this measurement thing better than other departments; keeping measures simple, relevant and presented in a way that people can understand (visuals?). Furthermore, establishing measures right up front when we’re designing HR initiatives. The real power of measurement comes from checking we’re doing the right things rather than using then as drivers for change. A fine balance I think.

With this tweet chat discussion in mind, I had a go at refining Kirkpatrick’s model with suggested measures for HR. I think it needs a lot more work though – so very open to feedback. What do you think?

Measuring HR initiatives


How do you measure the effectiveness of HR initiatives? Do you use engagement scores, business productivity, quality, or cost? How do you link these to the HR initiatives you are putting in place?

There are two schools of thought I’ve been playing around with for measuring ROI for HR. The first one is Kirkpatrick’s/Phillip’s evaluation measures. Which is a model for evaluating learning but could just as easily (IMO) be applied to HR initiatives.

Kirkpatrick model

The second is a model developed for the HRINZ research forum last year which examines leading and lagging indicators of performance and how it is affected by worker abilty (A), opportunity (O), and motivation (M) to perform.

(c) Sterling & Boxall 2012

(c) Sterling & Boxall 2012

Traditionally, HR has not been that great at proving value-add to the business. But it is not enough anymore to coast along doing HR stuff without proving the strategic value. I think the two models I have presented here can be merged together somehow to provide a model for measuring the ROI for HR initiatives . What do you think?

The questions for this week are:

Q1) How do you measure the ROI for your HR initiatives?

Q2) What works really well and what doesn’t?

Q3) How do you think ROI helps or hinders the HR profession?

Q4) What is the future of ROI for HR initiatives? What should we be doing? Why?