Does Employee Engagement Have A Pygmalion Effect?
Here’s a post from Forbes where the author picks a fight with Gallup on the validity of the claims of their latest surveys shrieking that 70% of employees are either unengaged or disengaged. The author reckons from his own surveys and simple personal observation that the number cannot be right.
Stepping to the sidelines and shouting on to both sides of the debate, it might be because of differing definitions of what employee engagement is. I reckon that I don’t care what anybody’s survey says if the survey is getting people to self declare, anonymously or otherwise, how they feel about their job or how they think they feel about anything at all. To me, employee engagement is a quite specific and observable set of behaviours. Quite apart from what people SAY, I think it matters what they DO. And we can observe that.
Employee engagement is people doing more than they have to because they choose to – discretionary effort. We can delve into the whys and the drivers of their choices later but the actual existence and extent of the engagement needs no survey.
If people say they’re thrilled with their jobs, that is not necessarily an engaged employee. There’s plenty of instances where unhappy employees bust their hump and do apply discretionary effort and plenty of instances where delighted employees coast. People’s feelings of delight or disgruntlement are neither here nor there. It is behaviour that matters.
And, ultimately, who cares what the national average engagement levels are? You need to watch and gauge your business’s levels and their trend. Work alongside, observe, interact – you know – people stuff. Not emailing them a link to an online assessment – if that’s all you do. As part of a planned programme, I can live with surveys, but often, surveys are the start and finish of employers’ efforts.
So, I disagree with the blogger about his disagreement with Gallup in that sense. It makes sense for a company to shriek a number like 70% if you’re a company that also sells solutions to that problem. Me, I just sell cynicism.
But I do think his latter point has merit – about survey results colouring management’s perception of, and therefore behaviour towards, their people. Like Eliza Doolittle in ‘My Fair Lady’ / Pygmalion, if people saw her as an impoverished common seller of matchsticks, they treated her as such, but if they saw her as a refined lady, their reactions altered. If bosses think their staff are disengaged (regardless of whether they are or not) and treat them as such, maybe it does become a self-fulfilling prophecy? Maybe bosses should treat people as individuals, make decisions based on their own specific and direct data and have a healthy cynicism towards any data coming from people with something to sell?
Wouldn’t that be luvverly?
Posted on November 18, 2013, in Behaviour, Employee Engagement, Influence and tagged employee engagement, Engagement surveys, Gallup 70% disengaged, Pygmalion effect. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.