Employee Engagement: a New Approach to Its Measurement, Analysis and Improvement

By Alan Meekings - Last updated: Monday, July 29, 2013

Introduction

Many organisations have benefitted from the Net Promoter®* approach to measuring customer loyalty since first publicised by Fred Reichheld in Harvard Business Review (HBR) in December 2003. This article was based on research suggesting a correlation between increased Net Promoter Scores® (NPS®)* and profitable revenue growth.

The net promoter concept has since provided a powerful business case for improving customer satisfaction, engagement and loyalty.

Over the past decade, companies have responded by investing in NPS programmes, and NPS has become a widely adopted customer engagement metric across the private, public and third sectors.

Well-executed NPS programmes have delivered:

Employee Net Promoter Concept

We believe the net promoter approach can be translated from the customer engagement field to deliver comparable benefits in the employee engagement field, if suitably modified.

With this in mind, we have recently embarked on a programme of research to test new thinking on the measurement and analysis of employee engagement under the umbrella of the “Engage for Success (E4S)” movement** in the UK.

We believe this research will contribute to the achievement of E4S’s objective of improving the competitiveness of the UK economy by: (a) creating a compelling strategic and economic rationale for improving employee engagement; and (b) informing clear, confident actions in this increasingly important field.

Needs-Based Approach

Our approach starts by capturing employee needs.

Needs are measured across employee groups, for both importance and satisfaction. The resulting data is readily understood and can be analysed in detail. As employee needs are expressed in a way which is comparable across all organisations, detailed benchmarking across sectors and geographies is also possible.

By establishing employee needs from the outset, our approach avoids having to capture lots of verbatim comments, which are expensive to capture and notoriously difficult to aggregate and analyse.

The resulting quantitative data can be used to answer important questions, such as:

  1. How important is each need to each employee?
  2. How well is each need satisfied for each employee?
  3. Which important needs are currently unsatisfied?
  4. What are the priority areas for consideration?
  5. How well do our results compare not only to organisations similar to us but all sectors and geographies?
  6. Which organisations, sectors and geographies are achieving best-in-class results, and what insights can be gleaned from their anonymised data?

This sort of analysis enables organisations to understand, in detail, how best to improve employee engagement, and, thereby, organisational performance.

* “Net Promoter”, “Net Promoter Score” and “NPS” are trademarks of Fred Reichheld, Bain & Co and Satmetrix.

** Further information on E4S is at http://www.engageforsuccess.org.

Filed in Ideas and Articles

Employee Engagement: a New Approach to Its Measurement, Analysis and Improvement

By Alan Meekings - Last updated: Monday, July 29, 2013

Introduction

Many organisations have benefitted from the Net Promoter®* approach to measuring customer loyalty since first publicised by Fred Reichheld in Harvard Business Review (HBR) in December 2003. This article was based on research suggesting a correlation between increased Net Promoter Scores® (NPS®)* and profitable revenue growth.

The net promoter concept has since provided a powerful strategic and economic rationale for improving customer satisfaction, engagement and loyalty.

Over the past decade, companies have responded by investing in NPS programmes, and NPS has become a widely adopted customer engagement metric across the private, public and third sectors.

Well-executed NPS programmes have delivered:

Employee Net Promoter Concept

We believe the net promoter approach can be translated from the customer engagement field to deliver comparable benefits in the employee engagement field, if suitably modified.

With this in mind, we have recently embarked on a programme of research to test new thinking on the measurement and analysis of employee engagement under the umbrella of the “Engage for Success (E4S)” movement** in the UK.

We believe this research will contribute to the achievement of E4S’s objective of improving the international competitiveness of the UK economy by: (a) creating a compelling strategic and economic rationale for improving employee engagement; and (b) informing clear, confident actions in this increasingly important field.

Needs-Based Approach

Rather than collecting NPS scores and associated verbatim comments (at significant expense, as is currently the norm in the customer engagement field), our approach to capturing employee perceptions starts by using qualitative techniques to establish fundamental employee needs and desired outcomes as the basis for survey feedback.

Needs are measured, using quantitative techniques, across employee groups, for both importance and satisfaction. The resulting data is readily understood and can be analysed in detail. As employee needs are expressed in a way which is comparable across all organisations, detailed benchmarking across sectors and geographies is also possible.

The resulting quantitative data can be used to answer important questions, such as:

  1. 1.       How important is each need to each employee?
  2. 2.       How well is each need satisfied for each employee?
  3. 3.       Which important needs are currently unsatisfied?
  4. 4.       What are the priority areas for consideration?
  5. 5.       How well do our results compare not only to organisations similar to us but all sectors and geographies?
  6. 6.       Which organisations, sectors and geographies are achieving best-in-class results, and what insights can be gleaned from their anonymised data?

This sort of analysis enables organisations to understand, in detail, how best to improve employee engagement, and, hence, organisational performance.

* “Net Promoter”, “Net Promoter Score” and “NPS” are trademarks of Fred Reichheld, Bain & Co and Satmetrix.

** Further information on E4S is at http://www.engageforsuccess.org.

Filed in Uncategorized

The ‘Control Tower’ Approach to Optimising Complex Service Delivery Performance

By Alan Meekings - Last updated: Friday, April 5, 2013

People tend to think the prime purpose of organisational performance management is learning from the past to improve the future. While this is certainly helpful, it is by no means the whole answer. Often overlooked is the other other important purpose, namely exploring the future to deliver better outcomes.

Our recent paper (see 12-11-12 MBE Control Tower Paper v2.5 Final) uses the analogy of air traffic controllers managing the flow of planes coming in to land to illustrate how hospitals around the world can optimise appointments for outpatients coming in for treatment by adopting what we call the Control Tower approach.

It also explains how this approach has been derived from generic principles underpinning the optimisation of complex service delivery performance, notably including Lean Thinking and Connected Performance.

Filed in Blog, Ideas and Articles, PMA

PMA Conference and Symposium Papers

By Alan Meekings - Last updated: Thursday, April 4, 2013

For ease of reference, papers presented by Landmark Consulting at previous PMA Conferences and Symposia are downloadable as follows:

(1)    PMA Conference 2004 (Edinburgh): Getting the Most Out of Performance Measurement (see Paper for PMA 2004 (Final))

(2)    PMA Conference 2006 (London): ‘Plumbed-In Performance Improvement’: Accelerating Improvement and Adaptation in Organisations (see Paper for PMA 2006 – Alan Meekings – v1.1)

(3)    PMA Symposium 2010 (Loch Lomond): Goal-Directed Behaviour and Target-Setting: A New Way Forward (see 10-09-28 PMA Symposium Paper v2.6)

(4)    PMA Conference 2012 (Cambridge): Connected Performance: A New Approach to Managing and Improving Organisational Performance (see PMA 2012 Paper (Final Version))

Filed in Blog, Ideas and Articles, PMA

Connected Performance™

By Landmark Consulting - Last updated: Monday, October 15, 2012

While performance measurement remains an important topic, it is only a subset of the broader field of organisational performance management.

Strategic, operational and financial performance depends not only on improving how the work gets done in organisations but also on how organisations are managed.

Connecting individuals, teams, functions and levels of management, both within and with partners, to improve the quality and timeliness of decision-making and action is vital in this respect – yet currently poorly done in many organisations.

Landmark Consulting has developed a new approach to maximising customer delight and bottom-line performance which we call “Connected Performance”.

Connected Performance not only delivers superior strategic, operational and financial performance but also concurrently develops an engaging, effective, learning culture, which, in turn, delivers genuine organisational agility.

Developed and honed over 25 years, working with organisations of all kinds, this approach has proved hugely helpful for them.

Moreover, this experience has given us a privileged perspective on implementation. For instance, in working with 50% of the ambulance services in England and Wales – all of whom provide essentially the same services, typically use the same clinical protocols and chose to adopt the Connected Performance approach – has given us unique insights around the success factors critical to implemention and sustainability.

To read a paper outling the key elements of Connected Performance, please see PMA 2012 Paper (Final Version).

To read an earlier paper presented at the PMA Conference in Edinburgh in 2004, please see Paper for PMA 2004 (Final)

Filed in Ideas and Articles • Tags: , , , , , ,

Goal-Directed Behaviour and Target-Setting: A New Way Forward

By Alan Meekings - Last updated: Monday, October 15, 2012

Advocates and critics of target-setting in the workplace seem unable to reach beyond their well-entrenched battle lines. Advocates point to what they see as demonstrable advantages, while critics point to what they see as demonstrable disadvantages. Academic literature on this topic is currently mired in controversy. Neither side seems capable of envisaging a better way forward.

We presented a paper on this important topic to the PMA Symposium in 2010 (since published in Measuring Business Excellence, Vol. 15, No. 3, 2011). It can be downloaded at 10-09-28 PMA Symposium Paper v2.6.

Filed in Ideas and Articles • Tags: ,

Integrated Development

By Landmark Consulting - Last updated: Monday, October 15, 2012

Our experience, over many years, has taught us the dangers of pursuing ‘point solutions’ or functional change initiatives, in contrast to the benefits of integrated developments in the realms of strategy, process, structure and culture.  Failure to take a systemic approach inevitably leads to disappointment: broken processes preventing the implementation of new strategies, process improvements blocked by structural conflicts, re-structuring resented and resisted, attempts at culture change deemed irrelevant because they do not address concrete work issues and so on…

Our approach to integrated development is informed by leading concepts in terms of lean thinking, systemic thinking, change management, leadership and organisation development.

The diagram below illustrates our approach:

 

 

Lean thinking, for instance, focuses primarily on process transformation, but cannot deliver optimal benefits unless it is supported by strategic commitment, well-designed structures and an engaging, effective and learning culture.

Development can start in any of the aspects illustrated, but has to lead to a benign cycle, strategically driven, in which:

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Contact centre survey findings

By Alan Meekings - Last updated: Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Everyone knows that contact centre activities are highly measurable, using a plethora of KPIs.

Yet little is known about where contact centre managers currently see themselves in the important field of performance measurement and management (PM&M) on a spectrum from poor to outstanding.

Nor is much known about future aspirations or intended timescales for improvement.

So, Simon Povey and I (at Landmark Consulting) and Paul Weald (at ProtoCall One) worked together to design and analyse a specifically tailored survey, based around Landmark Consulting’s PM&M maturity model for contact centres.

A brief summary of our findings is at PM&M Brief Survey Findings.

Details of our maturity model and the survey qeastions are at PM&M Self-Assessment Questionnaire.

Filed in Blog, PMA • Tags: ,

Performance Measurement and Management in Contact Centres

By Alan Meekings - Last updated: Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Everyone knows that contact centre activities are highly measurable, using a plethora of KPIs.

Yet little is known about where contact centre managers currently see themselves in the important field of performance measurement and management (PM&M) in terms of excellence on a spectrum from poor to outstanding.

Nor is much known about future aspirations or intended timescales for improvement.

Alan Meekings and Simon Povey of Landmark Consulting and Paul Weald of ProtoCall One worked together to design and analyse a specifically tailored survey, based around Landmark Consulting’s PM&M maturity model for contact centres.

A brief summary of our findings is at PM&M Brief Survey Findings.

Details of our maturity model and the survey questions are at PM&M Self-Assessment Questionnaire.

Filed in Ideas and Articles, Survey • Tags: ,

Linking operational indicators to a top-level scorecard

By Alan Meekings - Last updated: Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Recently Tina, a new member of the LinkedIn Balanced Scorecard group, enquired if anyone would be willing to share their experience around “how to implement KPI´s from Lean-processes into BSC successfully?”

This sparked an interesting debate (see http://linkd.in/e0xEQR).

As last weekend was a holiday, I asked for extra time to share my thoughts on how to link operational indicators to a top-level scorecard, which are as follows . . .

Hello Tina,

Because my approach differs significantly from a traditional Kaplan & Norton (K&N) Balanced Scorecard (BSC) approach, both in terms of underlying philosophy and supporting methodology, I need to start by saying something about my background, and hence why I see things differentlI became a management consultant in 1988 – an unexpected event, given that my views on management consultants at that time, before I became one, are best not printed.

However, through serendipity, I stumbled across and then joined (as the sixth employee in Europe), a very different sort of management consultancy that had no interest in writing reports and, instead, wanted to work with clients, shoulder-to-shoulder, Monday-to-Friday, to seize opportunities and resolve issues in double-quick time in such a way that clients were also left with a new capability to continue to develop and improve in future.

By 1995, this consultancy had been acquired by Cap Gemini, been re-named as Gemini Consulting and was rated as the leading change management consultancy globally.

Following my recruitment in 1988, I was immediately immersed in designing and delivering some of the most significant and successful transformational change programmes ever seen in the UK.

What was unusual, back then, was that each of these projects was endorsed both by the relevant Chief Executive and their Board. Therefore, we were able to work with our clients on a genuinely systemic basis, without tripping over internal organisational boundaries or sensitive issues formerly deemed to be ‘off-limits’.

This meant we could help our clients paint on a huge (systemic) canvas, rather than on a small piece of paper.

What quickly became clear to me was that the field of performance measurement and management was actually far more important than I’d previously appreciated as a senior manager and former director myself (then aged 42).

Indeed, I often quote Charles Rossotti, Commissioner of Internal Revenue in the US from 1997 to 2002, who wrote in his book Many Unhappy Returns: One Man’s Quest to Turn Around the Most Unpopular Organization in America, “The power of performance measures is vastly underestimated. They have an enormous capacity to change an organization – for better or for worse.”

What I learned, extremely quickly, was that:

(1) Performance measures, and the way they’re used in practice, often act as an unseen ‘glass ceiling’ constraining organisational performance;

(2) This glass ceiling needs to be removed in order to liberate the full potential of organisations; and

(3) What needs to be put in place instead is amore systemic approach that gives future development and improvement full rein.

All the consulting work we did back in the late 80s and early 90s (and, indeed, since then) had two components: one, improving the way the work gets done; and, the other, improving the way the organisation is managed.

However, it was not until early 1992 that I came to see the importance of managing the flow of information and decision-making in both these two dimensions (i.e. how the work gets done and how the organisation is managed) and the power of linking these two perspectives together.

My own personal ‘Eureka moment’ came while I was working at a manufacturing factory in Scotland facing imminent closure if it didn’t dramatically improve its quality, delivery and profitability within less than three months – so quite a challenge.

Working with our joint project team, we did everything we possibly could to improve how the work was done (from raw material purchasing, through machining, plating and assembly, to packing and shipping), such as: re-designing the shop-floor layout; implementing the Visual Factory; cleaning up and using their MRP software to best effect, and, frankly, everything else that would now be termed Lean Thinking.

Yet, we quickly sensed there was something missing. There was another process that needed to be improved, namely how the organisation was managed.

Back then, there were seven levels of management in this factory, all of whom were involved to some greater or lesser extent in reviewing performance and making strategic and operational decisions.

Unfortunately, by the time the top team had reviewed the latest weekly figures (and, so on, down the line through seven organisational levels), the next set of weekly figures had been produced. Hence, there was no connectivity up, down or across the organisation. 

Essentially, this led to a situation where: (a) there was no clarity around what decisions were expected to be made, by whom, at what level, and why; (b) decisions made at one level  were subsequently overruled or ignored; (c) endless time was spent by managers discussing or arguing with each other; and (d) generally speaking, confusion reigned. 

Interestingly, this underlying confusion was totally unseen, as everyone in this factory had grown up in this environment, even if they’d worked at other factories or with other organisations previously.

So, in reality, no-one knew any better, and it wasn’t their fault.

When we looked at the flow of management information up, down and across this organisation, it was blindingly obvious that the information itself merited only three levels of performance planning and review, namely: daily, weekly and monthly. In contrast, there were currently seven levels of management in place (albeit this hierarchy existed more for pay grading purposes than enabling effective performance management).

What we ended up designing, then implementing, was what I would now call a ‘performance architecture’.

This performance architecture answered the key question, “Who needs to come together, to look at what information, why, when, where and how, and how will levels of performance planning link up, down and across the organisation?”

Importantly, this performance architecture necessitated no changes to the formal organisation structure. We simply agreed who needed to come together to look at what, why, when, where and how.

I submitted a paper to the PMA Conference in Edinburgh in 2004 on this issue (see Paper for PMA 2004 (Final)).

Obviously, this answer begs a further question, “OK, Alan, assuming I was convinced by your logic so far, how would I set about developing a performance architecture in my own organisation?”

Here re some key pointers for you to consider, Tina.

To design a performance architecture, tailored to your specific organisation, it’s worth considering the following questions:

(1) Do we have a systemic set of goals at top level, informed both by our strategy and our operating and economic model?

(2) If so, do we understand the key drivers of performance, in the context of these systemic goals, and the key levers that can be pulled to influence performance?

(3) Given that we understand both our key drivers and levers, what metrics do we need to track performance against these key drivers and levers (most of which, hopefully, will already be in place)?

(4) What information is needed to (a) monitor progress; (b) enable managers at all levels to explore their own performance data (either on their own or with the assistance of data analysts), with a view to identifying actionable insights; and (c) show the impact of decisions taken?

(5) How are necessary levels of performance planning going to inter-connect, up, down and across our organisation?

In terms of detailed design, you’ll need to unpick my earlier key question, “Who needs to come together, to look at what information, why, when, where and how, and how will levels of performance planning link up, down and across the organisation?” in the context of your own circumstances. Typical subsidiary questions include:

(1) Who – should performance planning be a one-person activity at any particular level or do other people need to participate; if so, how far, cross-functionally, does participation need to stretch; will this be a good use of specific individuals’ time; etc?

(2) Comes together – how does ‘coming together’ best happen, particularly if people are working shift patterns; are there alternative ways of working, perhaps virtually; etc?

(3) To look at what – what information is needed to make what decisions; how is this information best presented; etc?

(4) Why – who is expected to make what decisions, at what levels in the organisation; do they have the necessary decision-making rights; etc?

(5) When – how frequently is performance planning expected to happen at each performance planning level; what performance indicators are people expected to look at and when, etc

(6) Where – where are people actually going to meet; if virtually, how will this be enabled; etc? 

(7) How – how can performance planning best be enabled in practice; what coaching is needed to help people understand how to get the best from performance planning; how are issues going to be referred up, down and across the organisation; etc?

You’ll immediately spot that being able to answer these questions is essential to being able to design an optimal performance architecture tailored to your particular circumstance.

Pleased be assured this doesn’t have to be a long, labour-intensive process.

Indeed, if you already have a top-level BSC in place, then it’s relatively simple to connect this top-level framework downwards, using the approach I’ve described above, not least because you should be starting with a clear understanding both of your explicit strategy and your underlying operating and economic model.

The only other thing I need to emphasise is that performance planning should not happen downwards, it should happen upwards. 

To illustrate this point, imagine two scenarios: 

(a) An executive team comes together to review and plan performance in a situation where they get the latest data first and meet before everyone else.  Obviously, they will look at this data and doubtless spot a number of issues or actionable insights. Unfortunately, there will then be little else they can do other than tell people lower down the hierarchy what they think needs be done or what explanations they require to be submitted upwards.

(b) An executive team comes together to review and plan performance in a situation where all the relevant data has already been reviewed at each contributory level earlier. This executive team will then either: (a) have immediate access to answers to almost all of their emerging questions (given that others will probably already have spotted these issues earlier, as perceptivity is not a talent uniquely gifted to senior managers); or (b) will immediately grasp what they themselves need to do to address the issues that cannot sensibly be addressed at other levels in the organisation. Please note I never use the term ‘lower levels in the organisation’, because each level should add value differentially and distinctively.

Once people have experienced this sort of ‘bottom-up’ approach to performance exploration and decision-making, there’s no going back. It’s a game-changing approach to improving the way organisations are managed.

Obviously there’s not a lot you can do, Tina, unless you can secure permission to work at an overall, systemic level, or you can find someone who’s willing to act as an advocate and coach at director level, or you decide to press ahead with implementing these principles within the area you personally manage.

With reference to implementing a performance architecture of this ilk, there are obviously other questions you’ll need to consider, such as: at what level should we start; how will we progress from there; who will coach the roll-out of performance planning, etc?

Do let me know if you’d like to hear more about designing and implementing a performance architecture.

I’d be happy to share my thoughts with you either on this LinkedIn forum or the new PMA website at http://www.performanceportal.org/.

Regards,

Alan

Filed in Blog, PMA