Too many leaders today don’t give enough thought to what they’re measuring. The leader of a large U.S operation once suggested that training should be measured by how many people went through training classes. As if the sheer number of people who sat through training drove the organization’s performance!
It didn’t seem to occur to him that the purpose of training is to build competencies that are needed to, in turn, build the capabilities that are required for his organization to win.
Take the 600,000-square foot distribution center that was generating serious costs caused by damage. On the surface, people told us the damage was being caused by poor hiring, poor training, poor supervision. Our peek under the hood discovered a reward system for leaders that was significantly skewed toward productivity. Consequently, business leaders, managers and supervisors were pushing people to get product out the door often at the expense of damaging the product being shipped.
Measuring employee engagement is popular. No, call it a fad. But engagement means different things to different people. Social media platforms define engagement as an employee’s reaction to a message. Did employees read the information, pass it along to others, or request more information? That may be their definition but there’s hardly causation between reading something, passing it along and increasing gross margin.
The classic definition of engagement is that people share the organization’s values, identify with its purpose and are willing to go the extra mile to make the organization a success. For employee engagement to represent a significant measure, it needs to be managed in a way that improves organizational performance. Did the engaged group of people get a new product to market faster, improve on-time delivery, or improve another key performance measure? That matters.
Here are three examples from my work with clients.
- Generate more profitable sales by changing the sales incentive from one that communicates the importance of gross sales to one that communicates that profitable sales is important.
- Improve on-time delivery to customers by implementing a communication process among sales, inventory management, manufacturing, shipping and receiving that eliminates time and costs associated with getting product to customers.
- Reduce loss time accidents by bringing a group of employees together to create a near-miss program that communicates we’re serious about reducing our accident rate to zero and do it.
Communication professionals struggle with measurement. They always have. Their measures typically include awareness, understanding, acceptance, commitment, whether “messages” are relevant, consistent or credible, whether employees are advocates or whether they viewed a video.
Those are interesting measures but they don’t by themselves sell more beer, toothpaste, pretzels, insurance policies, medicine or trucks. Or anything else for that matter.
That’s the relevant point. When selecting a performance measure, pick those that most matter to making, selling, distributing, or servicing what it is you sell.
This requires stepping back and asking yourself: What communication gaps are causing us to miss measures that matter most to driving our business? Start by asking your employees where communication breakdowns are making it difficult to get their jobs done, so they get rewarded for improving results.
Key Takeaway: Many organizations have boosted their communication effectiveness because they’re no longer just about social media posts, newsletters and videos about “feel good” topics. Instead, they’re deep into the operations of the business, working to measure and improve what matters most to the business. If you are a leader, you should require this of your communication team. Times, they are a’ changing!