How often does positive change happen after the typical annual employee engagement survey? Some say, “not often”. It’s unsurprising that no one really likes these surveys – neither the employees nor the people who are administering and analyzing the results. For the most part, traditional surveys are a bunch of clichéd questions thrown together. There are several examples of bad employee engagement surveys that have resulted in dreadful employee engagement initiatives. I am not here to tell you that the employee engagement initiatives that you rolled out don’t work – they can work well and you may have seen results too. But in the complex world of employee engagement, many have forgotten that organizational learning is the ace up their sleeve and here’s why:
It’s human nature
Think about it – as talent managers rack their brains to come up with highly innovative and creative employee engagement tactics, they often go against human nature! Talent managers tend to overlook learning as an essential aspect of employee engagement. Right from the day we are born, we are learning and soaking up knowledge. The best professionals realize sooner rather than later that knowledge is power. If a company does not provide the right kind of fodder for its grey matter (its human capital), no matter what other incentives you offer, the “A-players” in your company are always going to be thirsty for more.
It’s a career development thing
The larger your organization gets, the more your employees are thinking about their career development within the organization. You need to start looking at what learning and development (L&D) programs you can provide for your team. It can be as simple as training for a new tool or software that you wish to use to make your company and employees more effective, or on the other hand, you may want to invest in an extensive certification program for some employees.
However, even as you decide on the right kind of L&D programs for your workforce, think about roping your team members into the decision making process. You need to gather insights from your employees about what L&D programs will really help make a difference to their careers within your organization.
It’s a win-win
When I think about using organizational learning to get employee engagement right, two very different company names come to mind. One is Intuit and another is CarMax. CarMax can be described as a “premium” used car dealer. During the 2008-2009 economic crisis, when the American automotive industry faced a huge blow, CarMax saw opportunity for leveraging learning as a way to improve employee engagement. The sales consultant job at CarMax is the key interface with the customer. It is designed to take the customer through the entire transaction, right from the pitch to financing and closing the deal. This is unlike the traditional model where a customer is passed on to the sales manager and then a financial advisor for car loans. In CarMax, the sales consultant is the one person who is with the customer from start to finish. This helped the company achieve higher levels of employee engagement, lower turnover levels, and better profitability. And if memory serves me right, the company was named one of the top training organizations by Training Magazine.
Intuit on the other hand, showed us what a company can learn by letting its employees “teach”. Intuit is one of the few companies to propagate “unstructured time” for its employees to innovate. While employees try to innovate, the leaders at Intuit, work towards making the unstructured time more constructive and when the employees have a breakthrough idea, the decision-makers sit back, listen, and learn.
It’s a two-way street
Using organizational learning for employee engagement is tricky business. Many mistake it as just choosing the right L&D programs for their team. But in reality, organizational learning goes both ways. To achieve true employee engagement, organizations first have to take a step back to listen, repeat and then act! What organizations need from their employees are actionable insights that lead to concrete and effective programs. For this, managers and C-suite executives need to start by asking the right questions and move past old school employee engagement surveys. Organizations need to continuously listen and learn from their employees before using learning as an effective employee engagement tool. In simple terms, in order to implement effective organizational learning, what companies need is organizational intelligence.
If history and facts are anything to go by, talent managers and companies need to learn that every employment engagement initiative needs to be back by organizational learning for both the decision-makers and the employees.