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Confused About Who's Engaged? Try This Handy Engagement Test to Sort It All Out...

My posts last week regarding the concept of engagement and subsequent research on the topic clarifiedKfed a couple of things to me. 

-First, trying to get everyone to agree on a definition of engagment is harder than trying to get Britney Spears to settle down and work it all out with K-Fed.   

-Second, my take on the best way to have an engaged workforce is to a) ensure you hire talent that is already predisposed to be engaged, and b) figure out the best way to create an environment where "engagement fence straddlers" (those who might be engaged if placed in the right type of environment) elect to become engaged...

Of course, being the scientific, progressive manager you are, you want a way to baseline the current engagement level of your team before you start tinkering with the environment.   WOW - you are an achiever, and if I might add, an engaged one at that...

At the risk of being savagely attacked by the engagement community, here's my back of the napkin, "let's wing it" test to determine the engagment level of your current team:

1.  Tell your team that if they can find a way to get their current workload complete in less time, you would like to support the use of 4 hours per week at work to pursue any work-related, professional development project that interests them.  The only rules are that the project has to be work-related and potentially have a payoff to the business - but if the process leads to them developing new skills that adds value to them as professionals, so be it.

2.  Answer your team's questions about what is appropriate related to the project.  You might also get questions about how you will measure whether their current workload is being maintained.  Answer all questions to the best of your ability, without telling them how to do it.

3.  Once you've answered all the questions, don't do anything for 3 weeks.

4.  At the 3 week mark, check back in with everyone on your team in brief 1-on-1 sessions.  Have they started the project time?  What are they working on?

Here's how to score your findings:

-Associates who have taken advantage of your offer and are aggresively moving forward with a project - ENGAGED

-Associates who have developed some thoughts about what they might do, but have not taken action yet - NOT ENGAGED, BUT POSSIBLY COULD BECOME ENGAGED WITH THE RIGHT ENVIRONMENTAL TWEAKS FROM YOU

-Associates who have done nothing, or have excuses for why they didn't take advantage of the offer - NOT ENGAGED AND NOT PROBABLE TO BECOME ENGAGED, regardless of your efforts.

Remember, this is only a test, and an informal one at that.  You might actually have to start being engaged yourself to create the environment where your direct reports are engaged.  One of the things I learned from the engagement community is that according to Gallup, on average, 29% of employees are engaged and 71% are either unengaged (neutral) or disengaged (opposed).

PS - my take on this as a nice informal test of engagement is based on the engagement traits listed in this post...

How many members of your team would you expect to take the offer and run with it? 

Just as important - Would you? 


Ann Bares


I am a fan of pragmatic approaches - and I like your idea and test. The next question is - how best to act on the results...

Chris Young

Kris - nice post and interesting approach to employee engagement.

I must say it was refreshing to hear somebody offer practical suggestions pertaining to engagement instead of regurgitating facts from survey after survey stating how bad the engagement problem is.

Chris Young
The Rainmaker Group


Yeah, another engagement post!
There are several compelling components to this suggestion (even if it is back-of-the-napkin winging it):
1. It aviods all the complicated (and some might say, controversial) issues around what survey questions to ask and how to analyze them.
2. It is ADMITTEDLY simplistic, but just might work because:
3. It is focused on results that impact the business.
After all, isn't #3 really the only reason we care about engagement.

One caveat to your suggestion, though. You have added an incentive for the employees to work faster, which raises the possibility of them trading quality for speed. If this is an issue for your company (i.e. quality matters and can be easily influenced by the employee), you need to account for it in the "rules of the game." (Your second point suggests dealing with this issue)

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