The SHRM 2011 HR Survey and Employee Engagement: Shocking News!

Well I am all geared up for SHRM’s annual extravaganza, which promises to be quite amazing this year.  Why is that?  Last year in my home town of San Diego we were pleased to welcome some 11,000 SHRM people.  This year, 13,500 will be coming to the Vegas event.  OK a better economy helps, but Vegas and 103 degrees versus the cool and relaxing temperatures we gave 11,000 of you last year?  Right, we dont have the roulette wheels (not downtown anyway), the craps tables….we dont have the “what ever happens in San Diego stays…..” etc.  I know, I know.

Vegas temperatures start later today for me after my flight lands there…but that’s not the reason I am already getting heated up for SHRM11.  First of all the annual conference is a blast, which I detailed last year as a proud member of the Blog Squad.  But not only that, I just received a SHRM e-mail with details of their new HR survey, and it stated that employee engagement was #1 on the list of HR challenges in the next 3-5 years (see slide 9).  So far, so very VERY good.  But the thing that got my blood well over 98.6 was this:

When asked how they measured engagement, 71% said:  employee exit interviews

Excuse me?  You ask people who are leaving about engagement and depend on that to know what is happening?  Where did you learn such a….sophisticated…methodology for measuring engagement?  Don’t you know that people who leave might have had a different level of engagement than those who stay, and that’s why they leave?  A v-e-r-y different level?

OK thats bad, very very bad, but maybe there are as many people who use something more..scientific?  Lets take a closer look:  #2 method, used by 65% of respondents, was: employee retention levels.

At this point I am starting to reach Vegas temperature levels and I am still in cool San Diego.

You look at how many people have stayed with your company to see how many are engaged?  But…but…what if they just stayed because there was nowhere else to work?   What if they were a teacher with tenure just cruising through to retirement, having already “retired on the job”? Or what if they had found a safe and lazy and very unproductive way to work without being seen (like the guy in the Dilbert cartoon who is always carrying a coffee cup)?

Just as I was about to check myself into the local cardiac care unit, I found out that, finally, there are some people who know what to do:  43% and 40% respectively reported that they used outside vendor surveys or did their own.   Some sense at last.  The survey, when done well, is unequalled as a method of measuring engagement, and knowing whether and where to change course or to stay on course in an organization.  Its incredible to me that 50% more organizations use the methods of exit interviews and retention rates over a survey.   It might be cheaper but quite honestly, the data is almost worthless.

That’s my opinion.  If you feel the same or quite differently, I want to hear from you.  Comment here or find me at SHRM and let me know!  I’d love to hear what you have to say.

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