What Fake News taught us about Employee Engagement

As an executive at Yoi Corp (a SaaS company in the HCM onboarding and engagement space), I think a lot about Employee Engagement, especially as it relates to the overall Employee Experience. Over the last several years, Employee Engagement has become a hot topic in the C- Suite of both Enterprise and Mid-Market-sized companies. In the high stakes race for A+ talent, the costs to recruit, ramp to productivity, and then retain this talent have become a substantial component of HR budgets. If talent doesn’t stay beyond the MRP (Minimum Retention Period), the loss is often ascribed to poor engagement.

What, you might reasonably ask, could this corporate and assuredly reality-based topic possibly have to do with Fake News? I might have thought the same thing myself until I saw a recent 60 Minutes episode, which defined Fake News as “stories that are provably false, have enormous traction in the culture, and are consumed by millions of people.” After hearing this definition, I instantly saw several connections between this subject matter and the one that has consumed so much of my attention the last few years.

The “When” matters: Traditional Employee Engagement is monitored and quantified sporadically through the employee’s tenure. Although annual surveys have been the norm for years, more progressive organizations are moving towards bi-annual or quarterly surveys, which often coincide with goal measurement, bonuses or other periods of performance management review. Like Fake News, timing is everything.

  • Fake News works when it’s tied to current outcomes. Whether you voted for him or not, Donald Trump benefited from passing along Fake News regarding Ted Cruz’s grandfather being involved in President Kennedy’s murder. Had the article come out 2 years earlier, before Ted was running for the Republican nomination, the story would have blown over quickly and not been as valuable.
  • The “When” as far as data being collected is also critical to success. Ask me about my Engagement once a year, and if I’m happy on that particular day, I’m likely to respond favorably. But tomorrow my whole life could change and my engagement would suffer as a result. In order for survey data to be most accurate and reliable, and most useful to the organization, employee engagement feedback must be measured and received continually throughout the year. It should also be collected randomly and not directly tied to monetary events, which can skew results.

The “Who” matters: Many organizations restrict engagement data collection to the employee and their manager. More progressive organizations expand involvement to include perhaps 1 or 2 other members of the employee’s team.

  • Fake News stories are often unmasked when held to the light of journalistic integrity. The content or opinions contained within are rarely corroborated by multiple and reputable sources. The writers of these stories are far less concerned with objective reporting than presenting made up facts to support subjective opinion. Consequently, their stories often reflect at best one side of the story only.
  • Engagement data can be much like Fake News in this regard. Ask only the manager or hire about an employee’s performance and you get back a limited perspective. Feedback needs to be collected often and from all people involved in the employee’s journey at the organization.

You need to dig deep to find the “truth”: Much like Fake and Real News items, Engagement and lack of engagement is often hard to tell apart.

  • Fake News stories are designed to mislead and distract your attention. They are often targeted to impact you in ways that are different than others. Some stories are specifically targeted against comments and words you’ve written online in the past so that it has maximum effect on you. The “best” fake news is also often based on a kernel of accurate fact, further fuzzing the line between truth and utter BS.
  • At Yoi we track over 26 different categories of engagement to draw a complete picture of employee engagement at the individual level. Group anonymous surveys often highlight trends and results at the team level, but we know employees are unique and on different paths and at different places in their careers. That means good engagement scores for a 27-year-old millennial with 5 years of experience in a line manager role may be very different than those for a 30 year vet with 15 years of Director/VP level experience. In short, it’s critical to understand the meta and context around the unique individual to accurately gauge engagement.

Fix it fast: In both Engagement and Fake News, resolution must happen immediately.

  • Fake News stories are designed to have maximum impact in a short period of time. As short as a week or two later, the article is no longer relevant and generating very little revenue and influence. Timing is everything in unmasking and undoing the damage done. It must be a social and community effort to identify and disarm Fake News. If it takes too long, the damage is done.
  • The same can be said about Employee Engagement. Identifying poor engagement is only the first step. Remediation must happen immediately at the time of discovery to course correct the employee and “get them back above the curve”. Technology can assist managers and HR organizations to implement self-correcting programs that identify early signs of disengagement and remediate automatically. Wait too long and the factors of disengagement grow deeper roots up until the employee chooses to leave. Statistics show that 60% of new millennial hiresperpetually remain open for new jobs. Large drivers for this behavior include the following engagement tenets: lack of learning opportunities, lack of connection to the company’s goals, mission, vision, values and lack of opportunities to grow.

In the end, both Employee Engagement and Fake News are largely all about the bottom line. Where they differ, of course, is that employee engagement provides companies with the opportunity to get the “real news” about their employees and their teams. Through focusing on and facilitating continuous Employee Engagement, companies can get good at identifying and optimizing engagement, while driving some meaningful outcomes in the process:

  • Companies can drive down voluntary attrition by 76%.
  • Sales teams can reduce the number of unproductive reps by 75%.
  • Sales teams can increase the number of quota hitting reps by 72%.
  • Enterprise companies can save millions of dollars in costs related to poor retention and high MRP costs.

Although Fake News is bad news (and pretty much a blight on our society), we’re grateful for the opportunity it provided us to look deeper into the way our industry diagnoses, reports on, and addresses Employee Engagement.

Joseph Shavit is the SVP of Operations for Yoi Corp, a new employee success and engagement platform proven to maximize employee productivity, engagement and retention. Yoi’s new employee success technology utilizes predictive and prescriptive data analytics within a workflow automation framework to facilitate the most critical workplace conversations and activities.