Employee Engagement: Let The Fakery Begin - InformationWeek

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11/26/2014
08:37 AM
Grumpy IT Guy
Grumpy IT Guy
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Employee Engagement: Let The Fakery Begin

It's a good thing HR isn't in charge of IT employee retention. Their new "employee engagement" campaign is really "employee enragement."

Overheard during an HR "employee engagement" workshop: "Work on human capital so you can ask employees for discretionary effort."
 
Go away, HR. Come back when the double-talk fit has passed.

Here at BigCorp, bosses are "discovering" that (gasp) if employees hate the company, they don't work as well. Translation of the HR double-talk: "Be nice to people and they'll go the extra mile for you." Now, that was worth the $100,000 consultant, wasn't it?
 
But hey, it's the "brand new" science of employee engagement. It's social science! We did a survey! What are you, a hater?

[Will some cool tech toys make the Grumpy IT Guy less grumpy? Look at 10 Smart Tech Toys For Kids.]

Here is the problem. The thing that causes DIS-engagement is saying stupid stuff like, "Build up human capital so that you can ask workers for discretionary effort," and treating common sense as if it's super-complex science beyond the ken of normal people. The smug doubletalk attitude causes enragement, not engagement.

Many employees here are disenchanted with how the company treats them. They are disenchanted because they feel like a cog in a machine, not like the "most important asset" of the company, despite this HR platitude.

We are now to follow HR's lead on how to manage or browbeat our employees into engagement nirvana.

Except, management by platitude and mandatory meetings is rarely successful. And a manager's actions speak louder than words. If I exhorted my IT team to "be engaged" at the same time as (for example) micro-managing them, I doubt it would do any good.

How about: Stop acting like you're smarter than your employees. Treat them like human beings. Stop managing by platitude.

It is uncomfortable to disagree with HR. Generally, at BigCorp IT, we do not talk about the HR buzzwords-of-the-day because we don't want to demoralize our employees. Is this us being "disengaged?"

Probably.

Two things:

  1. If you want people to be engaged, be engaging. Don't tell people to be engaged and then be shocked when they are not.
  2. "Engagement" is voluntary. In other words, if it's about our "discretionary effort" as leaders, quit shoving it down our throats. Stop wasting our time. Quit forcing us to spend six hours of offsite "training" on how to make employees enraged... er, engaged.

A message for BigCorp bosses everywhere: you want engagement? You want employees to stop rolling their eyes when you talk? You want voluntary extra effort? Stop treating us like kindergartners and start trusting us. Start being straight with us. Stop telling us part of the story. Start giving us details without super-careful press-release type language. Stop the complicated consultant-speak. Start talking in language that shows that you're not trying to impress anybody.

Most of all, if you want us to feel like we are the most important asset of the company, show us. Don't tell us.

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Grumpy IT Guy avoided historic disasters and clueless people while working his way up the IT ranks, but he retained his keen sense of humor. He now leads an IT organization somewhere in America, as part of the FBI's Grump Protection Program. Need advice? Send questions to ... View Full Bio
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Li Tan
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Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
12/3/2014 | 8:45:11 AM
Re: Yearly encouragement bonus
Personally I think the stock option or just stock is more attractive than year end bonus.  For retaining IT professional, another important thing is the job itself - do you have really interesting projects with sufficient technology challenge? If your project is just some routine work, then the employee engagement will be a problem as well.
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
12/2/2014 | 1:20:04 PM
Small is good
I read the comments from those you who work in big local orgs and I'm so thankful my almost 30 year career has been spent at mfg business units with 40-100 office people, plus shop floor. The top boss is just John who I love to talk sports with. HR does real work like benefits, payroll and hiring. We all know what each other does and are easily accountable. You can't hide at a small place. In IT, I've usually been the only developer and ERP support. It's awesome to decide how things get done and then execute it, no BS involved. The business users love it because they know where to come for IT help and that they will get it.

Now my units are usually part of some larger global Corp group but only the top business managers have to deal with those clowns. We have some Corp IT, including a CIO, but they are so out of touch locally they might as well not exist. My local coworkers used to love when I referenced the current CSI rating for them. CSI, Corporate Stupidity Index. But for most part we are so isolated, operate like a family business who all understand what needs to get done for our paychecks to keep coming.

It's so nice to NOT relate to what you are talking about.
vnewman2
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vnewman2,
User Rank: Ninja
12/1/2014 | 12:42:50 PM
Re: "HCM" lingo has to go
Amen and hallelujah.

I used to be a trainer/teacher working at a community college teaching computer courses.  We would help them write resumes and cover letters upon completion the course.

The best boss I ever had told me and all of our students, write the way you would speak when sending out your resume or anyone "professional' - no one ever says "Per your request, attached is my resume for your review."  No one talks like that.  

She had a point.
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
12/1/2014 | 9:58:00 AM
Re: "HCM" lingo has to go
Not being a major shareholder in any company, it's not an issue I've ever had to grapple with but I would imagine that if I could stretch to think of people (and the families they support, the kids whose food they buy, and the mortgage/rent that salary pays) as "resources," it would be a lot easier to go home with a clear conscience when I knew (or voted for) a company was going to ax 25% of its resources -- and I'd make a 5% or whatever extra profit. That said, you'd surely hope some shareholders, especially those who are already very wealthy and are now giving away their fortunes before they die, could consider alternatives to mass layoffs, especially at organizations that are already running lean and have already fired surplus employees or those who were not doing their jobs well. 
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
12/1/2014 | 9:53:45 AM
Re: Obvious but worth a mention
It can be very difficult to turn around a company culture, @kstaron, especially if you retain the same top management. But it can be done, especially if the CEO and other c-levels become open about any failings (real or perceived), goals (what they are and why), and how the entire company can pull together (benefits and rewards for all). It requires conversation throughout an organization, which can be difficult if an organization typically enjoyed cloisters of power and preferred leaking info through whispered rumors. But as more companies embrace transparency, i think it's the only way businesses can hold onto top employees for any length of time.
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
12/1/2014 | 9:50:16 AM
Re: Engage Employees in the Engagement Process
Employees typically are closest to the customer -- whether that's the end-users who will use the software you're designing, the consumers shopping in the store, or the travelers flying on your airline -- and it's critical that management trusts and listens to these front-line workers. Someone believed in these individuals enough to hire them, then to continue investing in them through ongoing training and education. Corporate mandates, far removed from the front lines, may be right, but quite often should be tempered by feedback from the front.
zaious
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zaious,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2014 | 12:21:45 AM
Re: "HCM" lingo has to go
So, If we start calling HR by 'People and Growth', is it going to make the company employee friendly! They are just on the surgface. The issue of employee happiness is treated very lightly in cmpanies (though, the company thinks otherwise). Employees are not kids, they have judgement and observation skill. They can figure out whether the company is sincere or not in its efforts.
Michelle
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Michelle,
User Rank: Ninja
11/29/2014 | 6:45:44 PM
Yearly encouragement bonus
This is a strange time of year for people who work in these odd environments. Some companies have terrible management practices and still give out bonuses (however small). The message is mixed. You've done a good job all year but nobody seemed to notice until now (but we don't really recognize it).
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
11/28/2014 | 10:20:24 PM
The Dreaded Company Day

"...Quit forcing us to spend six hours of offsite "training" on how to make employees enraged... er, engaged."

 

Indeed.    You have got to love this one !    Yes, and when you really want to impress, ah brain-wash, company day is a great way to achieve this end.  It is really pityful, I have been on only one good one my entire career and that involved bumper cars, otherwise it has been a sleep fest.

Companies that do this in the name of moral are a joke.  Plain and simple.

Technocrati
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50%
Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
11/28/2014 | 10:09:25 PM
Fake it Till You......

As usual the Grumpy IT Guy is telling it like it is.   It is a refreshing  to hear someone say it before I do.  I see so many familiar instances of stupidity from what is described here- I just recently endured the mandatory morning meetings that went on long after there was much need for them.   

It is clear to me now that " the department head" was and probably always has been in over his (head).   Some times we give people too much credit - just because they are in the position of "responsiblity" doesn't mean they can do the job.  

So here is to all the "Fake it, till you make it " wannabe managers.   You are all just kidding yourself and sadly many will have their illusions of grandeur backed up by yet another level of ill - equipped senior execs.

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