Like a lot of people I am excited to be going to SHRM’s annual conference and exhibition this year in Las Vegas, Nevada and to have a chance to blog from there as I did last year. With so many sessions, I have to focus, which is easy for me with my field of interest and the way the sessions are organized. So I can take in morale and engagement all day long, meet some of the great presenters, take their pictures and blog about their offerings. Having said that I want to make a plea for some breakthroughs this year, in that we need to go beyond the meat and potatoes stuff which has been done so many times. Let’s see if some of the speakers can reach down into their creative psyches to come up with answers to questions which this part of HR and general management needs to answer. Here are some of those which come to mind:
–we think of the US as a very open society in many ways, which is a basic building block for worker engagement; yet we only have average engagement levels according to most who measure this…..why is this?
–the UK is even worse, its engagement levels were recently described by my former employer, HayGroup, as “the worst in Europe”….why is this? Is this a sign that social class issues have a big effect on worker engagement potential in a given society? Do other societal and national cultural factors have a big effect on engagement of workers?
–even if there are societal factors which affect engagement, can universally applicable activities create work environments in which workers choose to engage at high levels, almost no matter the society in which those workers live and work?
–we have heard a lot about “happiness at work” lately; some even say we need that instead of engagement. But is “happiness” enough? Can you prove that it drives performance more than engagement? What happens when the “happy” worker meets the boss from hell?
–executive compensation levels, especially in the US, are back at strastopheric levels. Does your organziation consider this when it approaches worker morale and engagement, like Whole Foods and BMW do? Does your CEO truly get “paid for performance” like the rest of the workforce? What impacts do these things have on engagement levels and if so, what can be/is being done?
–trends in engagement are very tricky to tie down, with big differences between the “big guns” of research and consulting in this field, such as Gallup and TowersWatson. Does this mean that they each define engagement differently, and if so how do we deal with this?
–if we cannot agree on engagement’s definition (see above) how can we convince leaders to go to work enhancing the conditions to bring it about?
–similarly why do organizations still compare themselves with outside morale or engagement “norms”, given the big differences in those norms from one consultant to the next?
–there is a tendency for some people with specific skills in the morale and employee engagement (EE) business to think that they alone have the skill-set to handle things in this field; the internal communications people, the psychologists, the HR specialists, and so on. Is this one reason for all the differences in EE definitions, questionnaires and trend data? What skill or skill mix works best for those who are involved in this field?
–how does individual personality affect engagement? You can create the best work environment in the world…but some still will not engage. This is a personality issue, and we need to know much more about it so that we can avoid hiring such people and deal with the ones we inadvertantly hired.
I’d love to see our SHRM11 morale and engagement presenters cover these and other key questions. They dont have to tell us that engagement goes up when people are treated well at work; that first line managers are the key to engagement; or that morale and EE drive performance, all of which we have known for some time. Let’s go beyond the basics to see some new things, which people can really take home and use. I’ll be there asking these questions and more….and I hope to meet you if these are your interests. Contact me through this blog or on Twitter and add more question topics if you want….I’d love to hear them and can ask them for you if you cant make it to Vegas.
LinkedIn profile/contact: http://www.linkedin.com/in/davidbowlesphd