Zurich : Lunch & Learn

15 May 2012

Physician, Heal Thyself:
HR Needs Engagement Also

Bill Collins

Senior Academic, HR and Organizational Behavior
Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University

Bill Collins not only lectures engagement, he lives engagement
as evidenced by the 40 some IHRC members in attendance.

Bill began his presentation by describing engagement as a topic that most companies struggle with. While the Gallup Q12 and Towers Perrin Engagement Drivers are widely used, they don’t measure results. Bill told the audience engagement must be action and defined employee engagement as behavior or cognition (e.g., problem solving, creativity) that is actionable (i.e., can have some sort of “result”) and is in the interest of the organization. “Like engaging a motor or engine, the machine can be fueled and running (motivated) but it is not “engaged” until it has been put in gear and the potential is converted into actual action (performance).” He explained his “Employee Engagement Equation” and the relationship between an employee’s motivation and alignment with the interest of the organization. He used examples of three levels of employee commitment to describe what HR can do to foster employee engagement.
Bill then turned attention to engagement within HR departments by asking how well the owners of engagement (the HR department) are doing at engaging their own people (the HR professionals). He explained how getting Strategic HR “right” can be a sustainable competitive advantage because it’s difficult to do, difficult for the competition to copy and leads to important outcomes from employees including engagement and high performance. He also explained attributions about HR practices and how this impacts employee attitude. The challenge for HR is to find a balance between autonomy and performance.

The HR Engagement Challenge
• Knowing what makes your organization unique
• Determining how and to whom that uniqueness is exciting and meaningful
• Matching people, systems, culture and opportunities based on this uniqueness and the strategy or the organization
• Get out of their way while maintaining and improving this strategic approach

PLUS – Finding the passion and emotionally rewarding work within the HR department will:
• Lead to increased engagement, discretionary effort and more creative/intelligent performance within HR
• The employees (HR clients) are more likely to have a positive attitude about performing and internalizing the HR practices
• Making implementing the activities of HR easier, more interesting and feel less like “work” to the HR professionals

A few questions Bill leaves for his audience:
1. What are those activities, priorities, objectives, etc. that are most engaging for employees working in the HR department?
2. What activities or actions, that are important to the success of HR, are activities or actions that require the discretionary effort of HR employees?
3. If the values and/or mission of the organization are things that employees should become affectively committed, then is it the role of the HR department to “own” or be responsible for the values and/or mission of the organization?
Questions for Bill?
Text by Mary Bronson/IHRC Support Team
Photos by James Macsay/IHRC Support Team