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Put a Ring On it: What Comes After Employee Engagement

Put a Ring On it: What Comes After Employee Engagement

An Overview of Our Recent Webinar:

Put a Ring On It: What Comes After Employee Engagement

Building engaged employees is essential—research confirms that higher engagement levels among employees is significantly linked to enhanced business performance. However, in life relationships engagement is considered to be merely a relationship stage that people pass through before achieving a much more meaningful, longlasting bond. For example, psychologists consider the engagement stage prior to marriage as a period during which time the benefits of a more meaningful bond can be evaluated.

Our research explores whether this relationship progression also happens in workplaces. In the past, workplace research focused on “satisfaction,” then “commitment.” Currently, organizational scientists mostly focus on “engagement.” Our research question is simple: is engagement as good as it gets for a workforce? Or is there a more powerful relationship organizations can forge with employees?

Two years ago, we began modifying many of our employee surveys to gather additional feedback from employees on a newly enhanced engagement metric. The expanded metric includes traditional markers of engagement (i.e., discretionary effort, pride, likelihood to recommend, overall satisfaction, etc.), but also new items designed to explore deeper emotional connections that might be forged between organizations and their employees. These new items explore a sense of love for the workplace among employees, and an emotional aversion to the thought of being part of a different organization. Together, these items allow us to move beyond engagement to evaluate a deeper, more profound emotional bond between employees and the organization.

Using linkage analysis to evaluate survey the data we have been gathering, in conjunction with the HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) data—standardized in-patient surveys used to evaluate and compare the care delivery of healthcare facilities—we explored whether patient ratings, including the overall patient experience and likelihood for patients to recommend, were better predicted by traditional engagement metrics or our newly proposed engagement items that tap into deeper emotional bonds. Stated differently, we tested whether employees who truly demonstrate a sense of love the organization create better customer experiences than employees who are merely engaged.

Based on our results, the differences between traditional engagement and our newly enhanced metric are highly significant. We attempted to predict the patient experience through three different employee metrics including (i) traditional engagement (how it is most commonly measured), (ii) newly crafted love/emotional connection items, and finally, (iii) an expanded engagement metric comprised of traditional engagement PLUS the love/emotional connection items. In statistically modeling the impact of these three metrics on patient experiences, it was determined that all three metrics predicted the patient experience. However, the newly drafted love/emotional connection items, and the expanded engagement metric comprised of both traditional engagement and love/emotional connection items, were significantly more predictive of patient perspectives than traditional measures of engagement. In some cases, the new items (love/emotional connection items) actually demonstrated twice the predictive power of “engagement” when it comes to understanding the experiences that customers reported.

To further illustrate this finding, we were able to create clusters of respondents based on how they rated the engagement and love/emotional connection items. Group (i) is best described as being disengaged and not in in love with the organization. Group (ii) can be thought of as engaged but not in love with the organization. Finally, Group (iii) is both engaged and in love with the organization. As expected, Group (i) seemed to align well with customers who rated their experience slightly below to well below average. Customers cared for by Group (ii) employees tended to rate their experiences average to slightly above average. However, customers aligned with Group (iii), on average, exhibited significantly high ratings of their care experiences.

Based on our findings, we can draw some conclusions of particular interest. First, it is clear that predictive power harnessed by employee surveys can be remarkably boosted by evaluating these deeper connections that go beyond “engagement” to explore powerful dimensions of love and emotional connectedness of employees. From a business/operational standpoint, forging these deeper bonds with employees certainly heightens the odds of achieving greater success—particularly in the eyes of customers.

In the end, our research illustrates that engaged employees who do not truly love their organizations, seem to do a fairly good at pleasing customers. However, employees who are engaged and ALSO feel a deep love for their organization create remarkable customer experiences that trounce what engaged (only engaged) employees tend to yield.

We would like to end by suggesting a new name for our new metric—while we have been referring to our metric as “love” we would like to think of it as an “affinity” metric. Affinity is a very fitting word for someone who demonstrates the qualities of engagement, layered with love and a positive emotive bond with their workplace. Finally, it is important to emphasize that our research in no way is meant to suggest that building engagement is not a worthwhile endeavor. Engagement matters greatly! However, we believe our newest findings may represent the first step in pioneering a next-generation metric of focus—commitment metrics were used to improve satisfaction metrics…engagement metrics were introduced to improve commitment metrics…and we believe our affinity metric will be a wonderfully meaningful and important augmentation to engagement metrics.

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David Rowlee

As the Managing Director & Practice Leader of Employee Engagement Surveys for Integrated Healthcare Strategies, a division of Gallagher Benefit Services, Inc., David Rowlee, PhD oversees a team of highly skilled researchers and ensures the delivery of leading edge measurement capabilities, advanced empirical analyses and innovative research studies to inform the operations and strategies of our clients.  Dr. Rowlee has more than 10 years of human capital research consulting experience with special emphasis in the ...

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