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Enggage for success aston 07 july 2014 rob briner

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Enggage for success aston 07 july 2014 rob briner

  1. 1. 1 AN EVIDENCE-BASED APPROACH TO EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT Rob B Briner
  2. 2. 2 Preamble  This is nothing personal  It’s not about you or your career or your organization nor mine  It’s not about your opinion or experience nor mine  It’s not about being optimistic or pessimistic  It is about objectively assessing the quality and quantity of evidence for employee engagement  It is about thinking critically about what this means for practice 2
  3. 3. 3 Outline  What is an evidence-based approach to anything?  Why isn’t HR and management evidence- based?  Five key evidence-based challenges for employee engagement  Why isn’t employee engagement more evidence-based? 3
  4. 4. 4 What’s the problem evidence-based practice aims to fix?  Practitioners in all fields use evidence (or information) in their decision-making  BUT the evidence used is often limited – Not enough of it – Not from/of multiple and diverse sources/types – Not critically appraised for its quality or relevance – Not used in a systematic way (e.g., not focusing on the best available evidence, not weighting, not aggregating) 4
  5. 5. 5 Why is this a problem? The irrefutable logic of evidence-based practice  Using limited quantities, sources, and types of evidence in an uncritical and unsystematic way will increase the chances of poor decision processes and unintended outcomes  Using greater quantities, sources and types of evidence in a critical and systematic way will increase the chances of better decision processes and intended outcomes 5
  6. 6. 6 Why is it a particular problem in management and HR?  It may not be but management has come very late to evidence-based practice  The concept is not well-known or understood by organizations, managers or management schools  It sounds weird in a management context but is common in other professions and disciplines 6
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  17. 17. 17 What is it? Evidence-based practice is about making decisions through the conscientious, explicit and judicious use of the best available evidence from multiple sources to increase the likelihood of a favourable outcome. 17
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  19. 19. 19 Why isn’t HR and management more evidence-based?  The training and skills of HR and managers  Organizations driven more by power and politics and short-termism than evidence  The power of management fads: The ‘solution in search of a problem’ problem  More effort spent on problem solving rather than problem identification  The business models of management consultancies  Management/business schools prioritize other things in their teaching and research 19
  20. 20. 20 Key challenges for engagement 1. Defining engagement 2. Measuring engagement 3. Engagement is nothing new or different 4. There is almost no good quality evidence with which to answer the most important questions about engagement 5. Over-claiming and mis-claiming the importance and role of engagement. 20
  21. 21. 21 1. Defining engagement  No agreed definition  Definitions highly inconsistent (behaviour, attitudes, feelings, work conditions, various combinations, causal combinations)  Creates serious practical problems as we literally do not know what we are talking about – contributes to a deep misconception of the complexities around the concept – engagement just becomes an umbrella term for whatever one wants it to be – makes the state of knowledge of employee engagement difficult to determine – adding this term to our vocabulary…has done more to confuse than to clarify  If engagement is important why don’t we take definition and meaning seriously 21
  22. 22. 22 2. Measuring engagement  If definitions are poor and confused measures are likely to be the same  Correlate very highly with traditional attitudes (e.g., Gallup Q12 correlates .9 with job satisfaction and .8 with commitment)  Analysis shows many engagement items identical to items in traditional attitude measures  Only one published study found engagement scores to be associated with (not cause) performance over and above traditional attitudes  No studies showing engagement has predictive validity  If engagement is important why don’t we take measurement seriously? (Don’t get me started on engaged/neutral/disengaged categorization) 22
  23. 23. 23 3. Engagement is nothing new or different  If it is not new it adds no value – The…concept does not constitute new content – does not necessarily add conceptual or phenomenological clarity – nothing new with respect to how attitudes and performance are related...puts old wine in new bottles – Failure to make distinctions and define and measure engagement in terms of older constructs is likely to muddy the engagement water even more  There appears to be nothing new about engagement so it therefore adds no value 23
  24. 24. 24 3. Engagement is nothing new or different  Only two possibilities – Engagement is not a new and different idea: If so the term and idea should be abandoned because using a new term to describe existing concepts is confusing and unhelpful. – Engagement is a new and different idea: If so then we need to define and measure engagement in ways that are demonstrably different from existing concepts  If engagement is important, why don’t we take working out if it’s something new seriously? 24
  25. 25. 25 4. Almost no good quality evidence  There are only two fundamental quesitons – Do increases in engagement cause increases in performance? Does engagement do anything? – Do engagement interventions cause increases levels of engagement and subsequent increases in performance? Can you do anything about engagement?  If we cannot answer these questions using a reasonable quantity of good quality evidence then claims about engagement are speculative at best or just plain wrong 25
  26. 26. 26 4. Almost no good quality evidence  The fundamental questions are causal – X > Y, covariation of X and Y, no other plausible explanations  How many published studies of engagement can establish cause and effect?  What else do we mean by quality of evidence? 26
  27. 27. 27 4. Almost no good quality evidence 27
  28. 28. 28 4. Almost no good quality evidence 28 None None (3 x-sectional) None None Around 10 Quite a lot Lots and lots
  29. 29. 29 5. Over-claiming and mis-claiming the importance and role of engagement  Huge number of claims made which – Exaggerate given the quality of evidence – Mis-claim given nature of evidence  Claims made by Engage for Success, some academics, practitioners, consultants  These claims just cannot be trusted and should not be believed unless better quality evidence is provided to support them 29
  30. 30. 30 5. Over-claiming and mis-claiming the importance and role of engagement  Does engagement cause performance? – The relationships…have not been rigorously conceptualized, much less studied – Without empirical research…practitioners are especially vulnerable to positive-sounding repackaging of workplace issues – we know little about engagement’s uniqueness as a predictor of job performance  But does satisfaction cause performance? – The search for a relationship between job satisfaction and job performance has been referred to as the 'Holy Grail‘…study after study failed to produce the expected strong relationship – the satisfaction–performance relationship is largely spurious – results consistently showed low or no correlation between the two…correlation only because performing well made employees more satisfied 30
  31. 31. 31 Why isn’t employee engagement more evidence-based?  Training and incentives for HR  HR loves a fad  If things are viewed as ‘doing good’ they are not subject to usual scrutiny (e.g., charities, recently convicted TV celebrities)  Too much good intentions (road to hell, etc)  Lack of focus on the problem – what is the specific problem engagement can fix? 31
  32. 32. 32 My suggestion  Whenever you hear a claim about engagement ask – What does engagement mean precisely? – What is the claim really suggesting? – What specific evidence is being presented to support that claim – How much evidence is there? – What is the quality of the evidence? – How much should I trust the claim? 32
  33. 33. 33 Thank you Thoughts, comments, criticisms, etc? r.b.briner@bath.ac.uk 33

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