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The Value of Engagement

Tuesday, April 5, 2016
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The evaluation of engagement has evolved over several decades and generally involves three major categories of research. Beginning with a logical analysis, research has moved to exploring relationships between engagement and other variables, and then on to ROI analysis where the monetary benefits of engagement are compared to the costs of engagement initiatives. 

The Logical Approach 

Engagement started as a concept, dating back to the 1960s and 1970s with the publication of Every Employee a Manager by M. Scott Myers (McGraw-Hill, 1970). According to Myers, engagement stems from a logical flow of data, assumptions, and behavioral science to suggest that if people are more engaged, they accomplish more. If employees are more focused and more satisfied, they are more likely to stay with the organization. In the early days, conclusions were not based so much on comprehensive analytical approaches, but on logical assumptions. 

This concept still makes sense in today’s organizations. As almost every executive would agree, employees will logically do more, produce more, and become more if they are more engaged in terms of:

  • assuming more responsibility with increased accountability
  • taking more control over what they do
  • being more involved in the decisions of the organization, assuming ownership of their  work
  • feeling a part of the team
  • making a meaningful contribution. 

In addition, engagement is an important cornerstone for making a great place to work as engagement scores are used to determine the best places to work. 
The contrasting view focuses on concerns when employees not being engaged. The concept of disengagement conjures up images of unproductive employees who deliver substandard work. When disengaged, there is more inattention to work, causing excessive incidents and accidents, as well as many other adverse consequences. This logical framework is still important as a rationale for supporting and funding engagement. However, as investments in engagement initiatives grow, executives become more restless and request more results. 

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Connecting Engagement to Other Measures 

Many studies have been developed connecting engagement to various measures. Studies have found that companies with high levels of engagement are more productive, more admired, and more successful. Individual studies show a correlation between engagement and measures like productivity, sales, safety, retention, customer satisfaction, and profits. 

These studies often take a review of the entire organization or in some cases cut across several organizations as a whole. While this is helpful for executives to see that there are links between engagement and important business measures, there is nothing like having more precise data that leads to the next level of research and application. 

The ROI Connection 

In today’s climate, when executives are asked to support programs that are expensive and designed to make the employees more engaged, a common request is “What’s the ROI on this?” This type of request has led to many studies in organizations on a sample of individuals measuring the success of an employee engagement initiative. 

As employees engage more, five levels of outcomes are monitored, including the ROI. This will be explored in the next blog. 

For more on the evaluating employee engagement, check out Measuring-the-Success-of-Employee-Engagement, available now.

About the Author

Jack J. Phillips, PhD, is chairman of the ROI Institute and a world-renowned expert on measurement and evaluation. Phillips provides consulting services for Fortune 500 companies and workshops for major conference providers worldwide. Phillips is also the author or editor of more than 100 articles and more than 75 books, including Measuring the Success of Leadership Development: A Step-by-Step Guide for Measuring Impact and Calculating ROI (ATD Press). His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg Businessweek, Fortune, and on CNN.

About the Author

Patti Phillips is president and CEO of the ROI Institute and is the ATD Certification Institute's 2015 CPLP Fellow. Since 1997, she has worked with organizations in more than 60 countries as they demonstrate the value of a variety of programs and projects. Patti serves on the board of the Center for Talent Reporting, as Distinguished Principal Research Fellow for The Conference Board, and as faculty on the UN System Staff College in Turin, Italy.

Patti has written and edited numerous books and articles on the topics of measurement, evaluation, and ROI. Recent publications include Measuring the Success of Leadership Development, Making Human Capital Analytics Work, Measuring the Success of Learning Through Technology, Measuring the Success of Organization Development, and Measuring Leadership Development: Quantify Your Program's Impact and ROI on Organizational Performance.

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