In the tech industry, and in the post-pandemic tech industry particularly, with its massive adoption of hybrid working culture, how do you measure employee engagement? More to the point, how do you measure employee value to your enterprise? With shifting work patterns and the so-called “death of the 9-5,” what’s more valuable? Quantity of work? Quality of work? Strict adherence to job role productivity metrics? Working 70-80 hours a week?
Whereas in the pre-pandemic world, everybody knew at least mostly where they stood, sat, worked and were rewarded on a more or less consistent basis, the pandemic experience has brought a considerable shift of values to business culture overall.
Once whole cultures and countries have experienced the closeness of actual death, the idea of living to work tends to pale, and a new work to live ethos takes its place.
All of which is fine and dandy, and probably, if the corporate world is honest with itself, a priority-shift that’s significantly overdue.
But what happens to employee engagement and personal value measurement? If the goal is actually not to simply work more – coincidentally, the fundamental underpinning ethos of the American Dream for generations – then how do we ensure fairer, more representative systems of judging employee engagement and employee value, without compromising the new-found work-life balance of the post-pandemic world?
Chelsea Pyrzenski, Global Chief People Officer at the WalkMe digital adoption platform, believes she has an answer. Understandably eager for knowledge, we sat down with her to get our questions answered.
The problem with productivity.
The idea of productivity – the idea of an amount of necessary work completed within an expected timeframe – has been around for decades, if not hundreds of years. Is there anything that’s actively wrong with using it as a leading metric of employee value in the 2020s, pandemic or no pandemic?
That really depends on the definition we’re using for productivity. If you’re basing productivity on KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that are agreed upon between the employee and the manager, then it can absolutely be a way to really measure the value that your employees are bringing to the table. But I don’t believe it should be the only way.
Productivity has traditionally been this commonly used metric to measure employee value, and there are several potential drawbacks to relying solely on productivity as a metric in the 2020s. Firstly, it may not be accurate when it comes to really reflecting the overall contributions any employee makes to the company. So when we think of productivity only as a measure of output in terms of quantity, not necessarily quality or creativity (or a whole host of things), an employee may produce more output than others, but that does not necessarily mean that their output is of higher quality or that that employee is actually utilizing their skills and their full potential.
Focusing solely on productivity can create a culture of overwork or even burnout, and it can ultimately lead to decreased results and lower employee morale. If employees are constantly feeling pressure to increase their productivity, they could sacrifice their work-life balance, and can ultimately fail to deliver, due to being fatigued or overly stressed or managing through fear, (especially if you’re leading through fear and that’s being pushed down). Stress-related issues and health issues can ultimately impact the organization, too.
Productivity as a metric can also be biased. There could be disadvantages with certain groups of employees. So, for example, if you have a disability or you have health conditions, you may not be able to maintain the same level of productivity as your able-bodied colleagues if productivity is measured only by output, even if you’re contributing equally or in different ways, right? Productivity can be a useful metric, but it’s important for employers to consider other factors such as the quality of the work, and the importance of other inputs.
If you’re working faster, you’re productive, but is the quality still good? Are you being innovative? Are you thinking outside the box? Are you bringing new ideas to the organization? Do you have time to show your leadership skills? Are you bringing people along? Do people want to follow you? Are you building the culture of the company? Are you collaborating well? We need to evaluate these holistic employee values. That’s how I view productivity – useful, but only a part of the holistic picture which is overall a more rounded way of judging employee value.
What is hybrid working in 2023?
Interesting. So how do we equally measure all those very different holistic values? We have decades of knowing how to measure productivity with something as simple as a check-box. How do we bring an equivalent measure to a more holistic picture?
Other valuable contributions.
That is where a lot of leaders are getting stuck. And that’s the importance of the HR role. There are a number of factors that go into measuring employee value, including their professional leadership skills, their communication capabilities, their relationship-building, their ideation or follow-through, and so on, and so on. Whether they have value alignment is a big one.
Traditionally, as you say, output is measured by a check-box. What’s your productivity? Check your sales numbers – did you hit your quota? Yes? Check. No – why not? Similarly, did you close out all your IT tickets in the reasonable time that we’re expecting?
All of that is just one factor, though, that can be measured when you’re evaluating the employee performance. We need to really think about the “how” versus the “what” and the “why.”
How many dead bodies did you leave in your wake? Did you ruin the culture while you were getting the job done? Are people walking out the door because they can’t stand working under you?
Drivers of value.
There are several big picture value drivers. There’s innovation and creativity, so when an employee is encouraged to think outside the box, and their job is to be an ideator and think of this new idea that’s going to contribute to the company’s overall innovation or product roadmap.
The other way to look at this is the “how” of collaboration and teamwork. The behaviors that you do to drive this, so team members work well together, collaborate efficiently, and improve the overall performance of the company. When employees work together positively, they’re not leaving dead bodies behind or creating enemies cross-functionally, they can share knowledge and skills and they can identify problems and solutions, and then they can work towards this common goal. And this typically can be measured in alignment with the company values – not just outcomes, but processes.
And then I also look at this in terms of customer satisfaction. We always want to talk about “customers for life.” How do you get a customer for life? Employees who provide exceptional customer service is how, so employees that contribute to overall customer satisfaction boost ongoing engagement and customer retention. Customers who have a great experience are more likely to be partners and recommend the company, helping to bring in revenue.
Delighted customers might take longer than average to get, it might take time to engender trust with them and to foster the belief that we’re true partners. That doesn’t happen overnight – but it is measurable in a more holistic schema than simple box-checking productivity.
That all comes back to the “how” versus the “what” when it comes to measuring employee engagement and value.
In Part 2 of this article, we’ll dive deeper into the holistic approach to employee value measurement, and in particular, what’s in it for businesses beyond a more rounded approach to value.
25 September 2023
21 September 2023
20 September 2023