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Good morning. Bonjour. Buenos dias. Buon giorno. My name is David Kirk. I appreciate the opportunity to be with you today. Before I launch into my presentation, I want to share a brief video with you to set the stage. This video was produced by a firm in Toronto called McDaniel Partners, which kindly made this available to us on the Internet.


Source of video: McDaniel Partners, Toronto Video located here: swf.


Here’s what we’ll cover today FROM SLIDE


I’m sure all of you have encountered managers and executives who think that what this woman is thinking is literally true about employees. They believe that people wake up in the morning hell-bent on doing damage to their businesses. As a result, they treat their employees as threats, not partners. In more 30 years managing people and consulting with people who manage people, I have learned the truth about people ‌


‌ and here’s the truth about people.


Let’s start a deeper exploration of employee engagement with a few definitions ‌


Here are three definitions of employee engagement: Managing discretionary effort – Wikipedia The extent to which – Corporate Executive Board A positive emotional – The Conference Board


According to the book, Getting Engaged, The New Workplace Loyalty, engaged employees are ‌


It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that having inspired, committed and fascinated people in your organization is a good thing. Now let’s examine why employee engagement matters.


It’s simple: employee commitment improves performance. This formula is from a study by the Corporate Leadership Council of The Conference Board … You’ll notice that this study is specific about the term “commitment,” which they see as a critical component of engagement. I’ll talk more about this shortly. Source: The Conference Board


The relationship between employee engagement and positive business results is widely studied. There’s an enormous amount of research on this subject. Here are some examples of findings:


Here’s more data about the benefits of employee engagement from other sources ‌


The Gallup Organization, has surveyed more than 10 million employees over the years. These data from Gallup are typical.


I have handout for you today called The Ten C’s of Employee Engagement. It’s one of those nice pneumonic devices for remembering the important components of employee engagement. In it, the authors cite Towers Perrin studies showing that …


The Conference Board has done considerable quantitative research on the subject of employee engagement. Here are three conclusions from the Conference Board. SUPPLEMENTAL: For over 90 years, The Conference Board has created and disseminated knowledge about management and the marketplace to help businesses strengthen their performance and better serve society. The Conference Board operates as a global independent membership organization working in the public interest. It publishes information and analysis, makes economics-based forecasts and assesses trends, and facilitates learning by creating dynamic communities of interest that bring together senior executives from around the world. The Conference Board is a not-forprofit organization and holds 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status in the United States. For additional information about The Conference Board and how it can meet your needs, visit us here on our website at


The Blessing White report, The State of Employee Engagement, which is another handout today, draws these conclusions from its research.


Employee disengagement has a real cost. It’s not as if its presence is good and its absence is neutral. Here’s evidence from just two of many sources.


Before we can get under the hood and talk about how to tune an organization’s engine in order to improve employee engagement, let’s look at a couple of models of engagement.


The is the basic model of employee engagement. The Corporate Leadership Council surveyed 50,000 employees from 59 organizations in 27 countries and 10 industries. The study concluded that ‌

This particular study also tested more than 300 potential engagement levers such as elements of culture, compensation, benefits packages and training. I’ll talk about a couple of them later.


Earlier, I pointed out that the Corporate Leadership Council focuses on commitment as a key component of engagement. Here’s what commitment means.


Corporate Executive Board studies demonstrate that engagement is an individual metric. You can’t predict engagement by demographics. You’ll see shortly that not all studies come to this conclusion.


The Conference Board describes employee engagement at three levels: disaffected, agnostics and true believers. The firm, Blessing White, plots engagement on axes of contribution and satisfaction and comes up with these five levels. Starting at the bottom. To getter a better picture of who these people are at each level, here’s more information about each type.








Do you wonder how many hamsters and such are in your organization? Here’s some recent data.


The state of employee engagement is not good. Source: Blessing White


The Conference Board Data I showed earlier said that engagement can’t be predicted demographically, that it’s an individual state. Blessing White’s data shows a few geographic and demographic trends. For example, these data show, for example, that more than 1 in 3 employees in India are engaged whereas only about 1 in 10 in China is engaged.


Contrary to the Conference Board data, it appears that things are rosier at the top. As you see from these North American data, engagement tends to increase with job title. But even this isn’t such good news. These data also show that more than 50% of the highest-level executives in the company – the people who are supposed to making smart decisions and inspiring everyone else – have less than ideal emotional connection to and alignment with their companies.


Again, contrary to The Conference Board, which found no generational differences, this data shows that the youngest members of the workforce – typically those in entry-level jobs – are the least engaged (20%) and most disengaged (25%). Source: Blessing White SUPPLEMENTAL: 1946 – 1953 Early Baby Boomers 1954 – 1964 Late Baby Boomers 1965 – 1977 GenX 1978 – 1990 GenY

This may reflect trends tied to job title, since there tend to be more Baby Boomers in high-level positions.


We can make lemonade with these lemons. Here’s the good news: more than three-quarters of employees are up for grabs. They’re neither true believers nor agnostics. Communicators, especially, appreciate the significance of this. Source: The Corporate Executive Board


OK. Now we know what employee engagement is, that having high levels of it contribute to our organizations and that most employees are not engaged with their work or their companies. As mangers, we need to know how to drive higher levels of engagement in our organizations.


At least eight major studies agree on these 8 drivers of employee engagement

1. Trust and integrity: how well do managers communicate and walk the talk? 2. Nature of the job: Is it mentally stimulating day-to-day? 3. Line of sight between employee performance and company performance: Does the employee understand how their work contributes to the company’s performance? 4. Career-growth opportunities: Are there future opportunities for growth? 5. Pride about the company: How much self-esteem does the employee feel by being associated with the company? 6. Coworkers/team members: they significantly influence engagement levels 7. Employee development: is the company making an effort to develop an employee’s skills? 8. Relationship with manager: does the employee value this relationship? Source: Defining Employee Engagement article citing a 2006 Conference Board study


Trust is absolutely key to engagement and it has a circular relationship with communication. This figure illustrates that open communication builds trust and that when trust is present, improved communication results, leading to more trust and so forth

Source: 1990 study, Trust in Employee/Employer Relationship published in Personnel Management


There are many different ways to express the drivers of engagement. You have a handout called The Ten C’s of Employee Engagement. I won’t go over these now. The conference board has tested more than 300 different drivers of employee communication. Source: “What engages employees the most or, The Ten C’s of employee engagement. Ivey Business Journal of the Richard Ivey School of Business, The university of Western Ontario.


In my opinion, the Gallup Q12 is the gold standard for measuring employee engagement. I’m about to go over the Q12 with you. But first I want to point out that Gallup considers these 12 questions to be such valuable intellectual property, that written permission is required to even list these questions.


12: The Elements of Great Managing. This is Gallup’s second book, in which the underpinnings of each of these questions is explored in detail and tied to management behaviors that drive them. Buy the book here and read the 12 questions legally: uycom.


So employee engagement is a great thing, we can measure it in fine detail and we know that there are specific management behaviors that are tied to employee engagement. What can communication professionals do with this information?


Quite simply, the four most effective levers of employee effort stem from communication. The steering wheel to turn to increase employees’ effort on behalf of the company, is, in large part, in your hands. Source: Corporate Leadership Council, Driving Employee Performance and Retention through engagement


To contribute to improving employee engagement, communicators must do much more than manage messages. Source: Communications Executive Council of the Corporate Executive Board research “Linking Communications and Employee Engagement�


This is one particularly good model of the evolution of public relations that is very instructive to communicators who want to contribute to improving employee engagement at their firms. Our profession started our responding to management’s demands to “Say this,” to deliver specific messages. We were water carriers. We evolved to the point where sometimes we were asked how to say what management wanted to say. As we became more sophisticated and proved our worth, some of us were asked what management should say. Today, we sit at the table with the big boys and girls – that is if we hope to have an impact on employee engagement, we must sit at that table because now we have to perform at the highest level of our profession, helping our organizations to determine what to do.


In other words, we communicators must change the behaviors in our organizations that do not support employee engagement. Source: Communications Executive Council of the Corporate Executive Board research “Linking Communications and Employee Engagement�


Where do we start to change behaviors? We start by focusing on building trust. Trust is key to employee engagement. Building trust among and between all layers of people in our organizations has advantages. One study demonstrated these specific advantages of trust. Source: 1990 study, Trust in Employee/Employer Relationship published in Personnel Management


The same study showed that these are the components of trust. Source: 1990 study, Trust in Employee/Employer Relationship published in Personnel Management


These specific behaviors build trust. Source: 1990 study, Trust in Employee/Employer Relationship published in Personnel Management


And, finally, when trust is built, we accrue these benefits. Source: 1990 study, Trust in Employee/Employer Relationship published in Personnel Management


We’ve talked now about what effective communication can do. Now let’s spend a few moments on what communication must do.


There are eight best practices in employee communication consistently cited in research. Source: Managing to Communicate, Communicating to manage, How Leading Companies Communicate with Employees


Source: Managing to Communicate, Communicating to manage, How Leading Companies Communicate with Employees


The Blessing White study suggests these strategies for employee communication. Maximize managers: they need to know what engagement looks line and experience it for themselves. They must help their team members believe in the value of engagement and inspire them to pursue it. Master the basics: manager behaviors associated with performance can also increase engagement. Make sure managers have mastered the basics: getting to know their people, providing coaching and feedback, aligning personal and organizational goals. Engage managers: If they’re not engaged, they can’t inspire others. Hold managers accountable for results and development: If managers are expected to develop their teams, they become more aware of their employees’ talents, personal goals and aspirations. This makes it possible for them to make meaningful connections between company and personal goals and match talents with tasks. Weed out bad managers: they are driving valuable assets out the door Align, align, align: Despite “line of sight” rhetoric, many employees don’t know how they contribute to the organization’s success. Alignment is the missing link for people who want to do work that matters, belong to something of consequence and achieve greatness with their talents. NEXT AND MORE


Start at the top: If senior leaders aren’t crystal clear and in complete agreement about the organization’s priorities, “cascading” messages will not work and trust can be damaged. Don’t stop communicating: Leaders need to communicate about strategy constantly. When they think they’re done, they have to do it some more. In addition to the “what” they need to include the “why.” Keep listening : communicating and understanding strategy requires two-way dialogue. Dialogue means that both parties listen and modify their behavior in response to the other. It has to happen continuously, not just in an annual evaluation or survey.


Not only will you need to use certain communication tactics such as group meetings to be effective, you must argue for and implement tactics at the institutional level, too.


These are some effective operational level tactics.




Thank you. For more information, call David Kirk, APR, Fellow PRSA at 610.322.0048 or e-mail


Employee Engagement Presentation  

An executive-level presentation by David Kirk, APR, Fellow PRSA,

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