Meet the new boss, same as the old boss – corporate purpose and employee engagement

Well, that’s a relief. Appears that engagement, as the raison d’etre for internal communication, is falling out of favour.

Turns out that people are beginning to recognise that the measurement of employee engagement (expensive yearly staff surveys) and actual employee engagement are not the same thing.

This piece from IC Kollectif in Montreal doesn’t quite say that, but it is a good read and makes excellent points. https://www.ickollectif.com/single-post/Breaking-The-Rule-Of-Engagement-New-Opportunities-For-Internal-Communication

Back to basics for Internal Communication

So IC professionals can get back to what they should be doing. Supporting the company’s business efforts by ensuring that all employees are fully informed about the business, its plans, strategies and values, the roles that they play, how they are expected to play them, and how they will be supported in so doing.

In other words, engaging the employee through the promotion of knowledge and understanding.

This, then, makes interesting reading – credit to Rachel Miller at allthingsIC, and The Big Yak, an IC unconference – great name, great concept – held on June 9 in London, www.thebigyak.co.uk. It’s the list of agenda topics.

Lot of old friends on this list – lot of perennial issues. Always good to see them still front and centre and being considered seriously. Personal faves would include CEO communication, getting exec buy-in, making managers communicators, and that old doughnut, communication strategy.

Nota bene, however, nowhere on this agenda is there mention of ‘engagement’. (OK, there is once, but I take it to mean ‘involvement’.)

Is ‘Purpose’ the new ‘Engagement’?

But sadly, as the rot of engagement is cut out, so begins the insidious rising damp of purpose. Even within the excellent Big Yak agenda, there it is – ‘connecting people to purpose’.

And the rise of purpose communication will not be – is not – confined to the internal communication discipline. This will affect – is affecting – communicators across the board.

This piece in the London Business School review makes both fascinating and terrifying reading – https://www.london.edu/faculty-and-research/lbsr/li-four-principles-translating-purpose-into-practice?platform=hootsuite.

It’s fascinating because the evidence that genuine purpose improves corporate performance is extremely compelling. It’s terrifying, because that’s what they said about employee engagement. As The Who said – meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

I worked with a company, not so long ago, for which the very measurement of employee engagement was the engagement itself. It was all about the scores and how the scores were communicated. It was also a company searching for a purpose – significant amounts of money were being spent with external agencies to identify and refine a shortlist of purposes, one of which would eventually be selected to be the corporate purpose.

Two things strike me as wrong here.

  • Purpose, for many, seems to be inextricably linked with sustainability, whereas, to my mind, a purpose might reference a sustainability agenda but it doesn’t have to in order to be valid
  • Spending considerable amounts of time and money on identifying a shortlist of purposes for your company seems a flawed approach. Either you have a purpose, or you don’t. And if your purpose is making the most amount of widgets at the best price, then so be it

What also strikes me is that purpose is the new shiny object on the block. Everyone claims to want a purpose, when they really want the performance uptick that accrues to companies with a purpose.

So the ExComm decides on a purpose for the company and hands it off to the communicators – the new Director of Communications and Purpose – with a brief to drop everything and ensure all stakeholders know what the purpose is, and why. Then measure awareness of, and adherence to, the tenets of the purpose. Because, obviously, the measurement of the thing is, as we know, the exact same as the thing itself.

But at least this solves the question of what’s happening to the budget that will be freed up when you stop doing the employee engagement survey……

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s