I genuinely had a spit take this morning when I read the most recent research done by Bersin & Associates about how much is spent on engaging employees in the workplace.
Ready. Hold your coffee.
*Does my best Dr. Evil voice* $720 million. That’s $720,000,000 for you mathematicians.
For some of you, that might not seem like that much. In fact, the same Bersin & Associates report predicts that this represents one-half of the current total market potential. That’s right, $1.5 billion total market value. Now, as someone who works in the field of Employee Engagement, those seem like numbers that signal potential, so why do I feel so down?
Because we’re spending these dollars the wrong way and the worst part is: you’ll probably continue to do so.
TAKE IT FROM DAN PINK
One of my favorite Ted Talks is from accomplished author, Dan Pink. He’s the New York Times Best Selling author of, A Whole New Mind. In 2009, Pink gave a Ted Talk that ranks as one of the most watched Ted Talks in the program’s history.
In his talk, Pink specifically points to where business leaders fail in spending so much money on these incentives.
“What’s alarming here is that our business operating system — think of the set of assumptions and protocols beneath our businesses, how we motivate people, how we apply our human resources— it’s built entirely around these extrinsic motivators, around carrots and sticks. That’s actually fine for many kinds of 20th century tasks. But for 21st century tasks, that mechanistic, reward-and-punishment approach doesn’t work, often doesn’t work, and often does harm.”
What is Pink saying here? He’s saying that not only do traditional engagement efforts not work, but they do more harm than good.
Traditional “carrot and stick” efforts like: sales spliffs, referral bonuses, gift cards, plaques, company swag, and many other numerous gifts or benefits given to reward effort in order to get more of it, are failing when it comes to actually creating repeatable positive behavior.
Study, after study, after study show that these efforts don’t work. (Those are really three different studies FYI)
Which leaves me wondering; why do we still do this?
WHAT’S GOING ON HERE?
We, at AMPT, work with many C-Suite executives, senior leaders, and front-line supervisors to find out how they can use our technology to increase their overall employee engagement.
Guess what we hear most? “How will I know if it’s working?”
It’s not that leaders don’t understand that more needs to be done or that their current engagement efforts seem to fall short. They get the current landscape. It’s that they lack the time and energy to consistently apply these efforts over time and have systems in place to evaluate their effectiveness. Not only that, leaders don’t want to “rock the boat” when it comes to the massive trinkets, plaques, and gifts benefits that they currently give employees.
Before you say “well that’s their job”, let me clarify, it’s not that these leaders don’t care (they do), it’s that they’re unsure if these efforts will actually lead to any results. Why? Because they lack the ability to quantify their impact- after all, how would you measure the engagement level of an employee after they get a plaque with their name on it?
In short: leaders will spend money on engagement efforts (to the tune of $720 million) but many have little to no clue what is actually working.
SO WHY DO WE KEEP SPENDING MONEY ON SOMETHING THAT DOESN’T WORK?
I want you to think of the countless chores, duties, tasks and “honey-do’s” you have to do each week at home. Let’s take your laundry habits for instance. What do you do there when it’s time to start?
(DISCLAIMER) I am not a Laundry expert.
Most of us start by separating darks and whites. You remove the delicates, and any strong colors and separate them into other piles. Sound familiar?
What if I told you that this practice doesn’t do much. Most clothes created today are made using color dyes that won’t run as much and are far more durable than their predecessors. In fact, it costs more money in the long run because of this practice (more loads = more detergent & water = more money).
So, why do you do it? I have a guess as to what sentence is running in your mind right now.
“Because that’s what I’ve always done”.
THE DEFINITION OF INSANITY
Most people are aware of the saying that the “Definition of Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results”. Sound familiar? Although it’s not the Webster’s Dictionary definition of ‘Insanity’, it does point to a familiar theme in business.
We keep doing the same things our predecessors have done because, well, it’s what’s always been done. It’s this saying that might be the most detrimental road block to substantive changes in business in the 21st century. That is, until you’re left behind as other businesses catch up and outpace those who keep saying “It’s always been done this way”.
So what can be done to change this?
Start by asking yourself these three questions today if you’re wondering how effective your employee engagement dollars actually are.
- Do these efforts focus on or involve our core values, mission, and brand promise with each award?
- Have we identified quantifiable outcomes to determine our engagement effort’s effectiveness?
- Do our employees even like these efforts?
If you answered “No” to any of these questions above then it’s time to evaluate where your engagement dollars are going. You are more than likely wasting money.
What can be done next? Here are three more recommendations as to what steps you should take next to re-evaluate how you should spend engagement dollars.
1) Do an employee survey, fast. Take the pulse of your team so you can know where your team is struggling. Not to mention, you will probably get actual ideas and solutions to this very issue from the people you serve. We can help.
2) Get the exact amount you’re currently spending on your employee engagement efforts. Sometimes, leaders aren’t currently aware of how much they’re actually spending. This should probably be the first step.
3) Time to see how creative your leaders are. Take the results of the survey, the amount of engagement dollars spent and ask your leadership this one question: What would you do with this money to make our employees happier? IMPORTANT NOTE: Make sure that each of their answers covers the three questions above.
If your efforts aren’t consistent with the core values, vision and mission of your company: don’t do it.
If your efforts aren’t measurable: don’t do it.
If your employees aren’t happier as a result of the money spent: don’t do it.
Solely invest in solutions or technology (heard of AMPT) that clearly do all three of the things listed above. Above all – your efforts should be easy to implement and simple to use.
Good luck! (keep doing your laundry the same by the way)