Talent Management

To boost employee engagement, focus on alignment

  Watch the webinar ‘Why People Leave: Decoding the Engagement Challenge 

Each year, many companies spend a significant amount of time, energy and money to increase employee engagement. Companies that succeed will likely experience higher sales, improved profitability and better customer service. Companies that fail will miss an opportunity to motivate talented employees or gain a competitive edge.

Focusing on employee alignment can help your company fall into the former category. Here’s how.

The typical strategy

Most companies tackle the employee-engagement challenge by conducting an annual survey and setting an organization-wide action plan. In most cases, this approach involves building a carefully designed survey and then getting it out to all employees in a short time period (e.g., a few weeks).

Once the results are in, the action-planning phase begins. Best practice is to follow a top-down and bottom-up approach, where senior leaders look at the results and take actions that affect the entire organization. Meanwhile, individual managers review results with their teams and identify steps that would make things better. In theory, if all levels of leadership are listening to their employees and doing something about it, engagement will get better.

The reality is, many companies’ survey and action-planning methods are lacking. Often, they don’t give enough attention to the individual and don’t figure out what makes them—or their daily work experiences—unique. It’s important to understand who your employees are (in terms of their personal drives, motivations and behavioral tendencies) and how those identities fit with their expectations of the work environment.

Four pressures that impact engagement

There are four main pressures that can cause a person to feel that they aren’t a strong fit for their work environment. Over a sustained period, that feeling is likely to cause disengagement and turnover.

The four main pressures include:

1. Job responsibilities. When employees are asked to do things in their job that don’t align with who they are (e.g., a customer service representative is asked to make sales calls)
2. Manager expectations. When managers expect employees to act or behave in ways that go against their natural tendencies (e.g., an employee with a competitive personality is told to be a team player)
3. Team dynamics. When an individual feels the need to be someone different in order to get along or work well with team members (e.g., a detail-oriented person loses patience with a bunch of idea generators)
4. Cultural demands. When an individual feels that their approach doesn’t align with the company culture (e.g., a very good developer wants to move faster than the company’s leaders are comfortable with)

Using ‘The Predictive Index’

In order to understand how these pressures impact employees, The Predictive Index (PI) uses a proprietary approach to assess both who a person is and who they are expected to be. It can identify employees who need to “stretch” and feel the need to behave differently. Having a discussion with those employees can reveal the reasons behind their feelings.

If you don’t have access to the proprietary approach that PI uses (and you can get access very easily), understand that employees have unique work experiences and work pressures.

There are some people who are highly engaged in the workplace, even though they feel a lot of pressure to be someone they are not. There are also employees who dread their job, manager, team or culture simply because they feel misaligned.

The bottom line

If you focus on employee alignment and engagement at the same time, your chances of engagement success go up greatly. It is true that, in some cases, misalignment between a person and their job isn’t going to get better. But to get to the heart and passion of people, let them be who they are. Allow them put their best selves forward. And make sure they feel rewarded and recognized for successfully playing to their strengths.

Related reading: ‘Rethinking employee engagement’

Category: Talent Management

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About the Author: Greg Barnett

Greg is responsible for setting and executing The Predictive Index’s scientific agenda and leading the company’s R&D department in the development, maintenance, and delivery of The Predictive Index’s science-based behavioral and skills a…

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