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1. This is where a longish, unrelated to HR tangent begins… well, actually today the tangent is related enough that even if you don’t like my tangents I’d say just read the whole thing. 1 Before I launched this site I remember thinking there were a couple of things that I knew for sure:

List

2. When you write every day sometimes it’s good and sometimes it isn’t, but putting words to paper every day keeps you thinking about the topic you’re writing about constantly – and this is really important to me. I explain why below.1. I want to write about HR everyday. 2

2. I want what I write about to be fresh – it’s okay to talk about the same subject on multiple occasions, but I don’t ever want to repeat something I’ve said before just for the sake of posting. Readers should get something new every time they come to the site.

3. I want people to engage with what I write. I don’t care if they agree (much of HR “best practice” is subjective and heavily context dependent anyway), but I want them to engage. That’s how I know that I’m saying something relevant – it’s my cue to keep going.

I reached out to Chris Hoyt, the Talent Engagement & Marketing Leader at PepsiCo and asked him how his engagement was so high. I’d briefly met him once during an internship with PepsiCo once upon a time, and I’ll never forget looking him up and being awed at the scope of his web presence. I became even more impressed when I realized that unlike many HR leaders, he didn’t seem to (always) be generating a steady stream of web content to maintain that presence.

How did he do it?

How did he do it?

Before I do anything new I study what others are doing who’ve come before – both so I can learn from their mistakes and to build on the things they’re doing 3. Now I complete a post in about an hour (on average), but my first post took me four days to finish writing. I was trying to make it perfect. Sports columnist/commentator Bill Simmons is a huge source of inspiration for me (I’ve been reading him for about a decade now). I went back and read his first column on Grantland, which was the push I needed to finally share my first post. He helped me to realize it’s impossible to “know” if something like this will work until you try. You just roll it out, keep writing and then eventually find your voice. People will read it or they won’t. That’s a lesson for HR as a function (and life) as well. Everything – compensation program designs, change management initiatives… dieting, finding the right look/career/spouse (sometimes this takes several tries)/whatever – it’s a process. Making sure that you have it right before you try is a sure way to never actually try.that work. 3 With Chris though, I couldn’t figure out how his engagement was so high. As I’ve said he wasn’t really producing much content (compared against those with a similar presence), but his SEO and engagement metrics were off the charts. Finally, I asked him via Twitter what he was doing right, and pretty quickly he responded:

That simple word was an eye opener for me in several ways. I won’t list them all (I’ve hit my self imposed tangent limit for the day), but the most important one as concerns this post is that his response caused me to re-think the 3rd thing I wanted to get out of the site. Before, it had been:

3. I want people to engage with what I write. I don’t care if they agree (much of HR “best practice” is subjective and heavily context dependent anyway), but I want them to engage. That’s how I know that I’m saying something relevant – it’s my cue to keep going.

and after, it became:

3. I want to use this site as an opportunity to engage with others and understand what they’re saying about HR (and why). I don’t care if we agree (much of HR “best practice” is subjective and heavily context dependent anyway), but I want to engage. That’s how I know I’m learning – it’s my cue to keep going.

See… engagement for the sake of affirmation has relatively little value in and of itself. All it tells you is that you know what you know (which you already know).

More value added is learning what you don’t know. This is how you become better at what you do – by learning from others. You don’t have to agree with everything they say – some of it may not even be value added. But it’s good to engage with others to understand how they view the world.

There has been a lot written about employee engagement. Some of it I agree with – some of it I don’t.

That said, I think this definition pretty accurately covers how most employers think about employee engagement:

Employee engagement is a workplace approach designed to ensure that employees are committed to their organisation’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organisational success, and are able at the same time to enhance their own sense of well-being. 

See, the problem with this approach is that it tries to be too many different things to too many different people. Employees motivations are pretty evenly split across five different dimensions:

–      Achieving industry leadership

–      Making a better society/community

–      Improving things for the customer

–      Belonging to a team

–      Compensation (i.e. direct employee benefit)

There is no way an employer can be all of the above to everyone in their organization. And they shouldn’t try to be.

The problem is that too often employers go to one of two extremes:

You can't be everyone to everybody - please stop trying.

You can’t be everyone to everybody – please stop trying HR lady.

1. With the exception of senior leaders and top performers (who impact the bottom line too much to be ignored) they don’t listen to their employees/engage with them in any meaningful way or;

2. They do engagement surveys, 1 w/ 1 interviews, hire management consultants to help them right every wrong, and in general work themselves into a tizzy over what employees aren’t getting out of their jobs.

Neither of these is the right approach.

I think annual engagement surveys, 1 w/ 1 interviews and the occasional 3rd party consultation are all great ideas for every organization. Companies need to know what their employees are thinking and how they feel about the work they do (and they need to know what other companies are doing to engage their employees as well).

With that said, it’s also important not to act on everything employees tell you they’re unhappy with – and this is something that should be communicated to the employee population ahead of any engagement initiative so as not to create unrealistic expectations. Too often if an organization makes any visible effort at engagement there is backlash if all cited concerns aren’t perceived as having been addressed.

Employers need to show their employees they are listening (at a company-wide level, department level, team level, and individual contributor level). At the same time, there should be a clear understanding that the company is going to do everything it can to marry up employee concerns with the long term best interest of the organization. Every problem can’t be fixed – but it’s important to listen.

For me the same is very much true about what I post on this site. I’m sharing my thoughts – and not all of them are in line with “best practice”. But everything I write is part of a larger discussion on HR.

Employee engagement is a conversation that everyone should be involved in. Image Credit: <http://www.peopleinsight.co.uk

Employee engagement is a conversation that everyone should be involved in. Image Credit: http://www.peopleinsight.co.uk

I’ve appreciated the LinkedIn messages, Twitter messages, community invites, and rich discussions I’ve had the opportunity to have over the past few weeks with HR thought leaders around the globe. For those of you not participating I would encourage you to join the conversation for the same reason companies should constantly be monitoring employee engagement. We may or may not see eye to eye, but it’s good to have the discussion.

As always, share your thoughts below.

Best,

Rory

If you have questions about something you’ve read here (or simply want to connect) you can reach me at any of the following addresses: 

SomethingDifferentHR@gmail.com OR rorytrotter86@gmail.com

@RoryCTrotterJr

http://www.linkedin.com/in/roryctrotterjr

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