Monday, January 11, 2010

Is Engagement SO Last Year?

My inbox is full of information about employee engagement. I have several interesting conversations over the last week regarding employee engagement and what that means post the Great Recession.

Saturday, I had a great lunch with some really smart, savvy HR professionals. We discussed how we all felt the new model of how we work is going to be much different. We believe the recovery from our recession will have employers being very careful about their hiring of "permanent" workers. With healthcare costs rising, and futures uncertain many companies are adding staff back through contract (1099) type workers or outsourced talent. We talked about the how companies discussed moving to a contingent workforce back in the late 90's early 00's but we never really fully went there. I believe the recession is "forcing" a different talent model on companies. Emphasis on TALENT, as we still have to employ talented individuals, just the model is changing. This model not only allows for cost reductions but also flexibility. (When the project is's over.) These recent layoffs have been hard on everyone this time and perhaps can be avoided if we have a more flexible, "just in time" workforce.

So, what does this new model mean to HR? As we continued our discussion on Saturday, we began thinking about employee engagement and will it matter in this new model. Last week we heard from the conference board how only 45% of US workers are satisfied in their jobs. Do we and should we care about that especially if we migrate to a more contingent workforce?. Mike Klein posted an excellent blog on the subject, 'Questioning Engagement, Things to Think About."

I believe we should care about engagement because engagement impacts our customers no matter the employees status. I think as Mike Klein stated, you have to know what your company means by engagement. Is it in your culture or is just a program with a t-shirt and a mug?

Our contingent and our "regular" workforces must be "engaged" around the same vision/mission and be clear on what is expected. Our companies must provide the environment for employees to thrive and be engaged in. The employees then must deliver on those expectations and be rewarded appropriately.

The tricky part is understanding what drives engagement for these two groups as a contingent worker has pay for performance built in his contract which is a strong driver to perform. If high engagement leads to high performance shouldn't we really be serious about paying for that?

HR can impact both of these areas ENGAGEMENT and PAY FOR PERFORMANCE. As companies look at the workforce and determine which positions are key and should remain "regular" and which are contingent and can be outsourced, HR needs to be in the KEY line. By thinking strategically and always having a "business" hat on, HR can be a valued resource as the new model unfolds.

I have really thrown a lot of questions out this week as these discussions are interesting to me. I don't know the answers, but would love your perspective and opinion. Is Engagement IN or OUT?
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