There is no better place than the Society of Human Resource Management Annual Conference to engage the issues of the day. You will undoubtedly hear tales of Employee Engagement (or lack thereof). As you walk the Exhibitor Hall or attend sessions you will notice a divide on the subject:
School 1: Those who believe Employee Recognition is a benefit.
School 2: Those who believe Employee Engagement is a strategy.
There is a distinct difference in these schools of thought. Both have their place depending on organizational objectives and employee initiatives. Some Human Resource professionals find their skill set in the transactional. There is a place for this in every organization. Unfortunately, the transactional past of the HR skill set is holding back those who want more out of their profession. It is my belief that SHRM has made the transition into certifying their members because they believe that the title of Human Resources encompasses more than the transactional. The future of the profession may very well be split into two groups:
Group 1: Generalists
Group 2: HR Business Partners
Here's where the vendor/attendee partnership becomes critically important.
Transactional Recognition = rewards that are not performance based or that are driven by back-end technology that serves only as a compensation device.
Strategic Engagement = entirely unique programs that serve employee well being through revenue production.
A Vice President in our HR Community once told me that he would not offer a non-cash reward program for his employees because they were minimum wage workers who could barely afford to pay rent. He fought to get a them a pay raise rather than a better benefit. Makes sense.
We often see companies who want to borrow technical design to better measure performance and its according cash pay out. Fair enough.
There are organizations who rely on industry case studies to determine what will make their employees happy while others are seeking big data metrics to determine the best total rewards package for their employees. A viable bench-marking exercise.
At the conclusion of 2013, Gallup reported a 13% Global Employee Engagement rate. They have data to prove it. I disagree with their data (and everyone's data for that matter).
Lack of employee engagement is not due to lack of employee motivation it is due to an organization's inability to embrace it. If you seek an off-the-shelf program (that every other company has) you have put a check in the Total Rewards inventory. For most employees, that is not enough.
Why Not Dream Big!
Starbucks has partnered with The Arizona State University to pay for their Barista's college education. The transactional-minded may see this as a potential expense drain. These are the people who afford their employees only minimal learning opportunities for fear that if they learn too much they will leave.
Howard Schultz thinks different. Starbucks' bold effort will create two distinct opportunities:
1. Improved employee retention by keeping Baristas in place for as long as it takes to complete their college degree.
2. The creation of better-developed job candidates in their business communities.
Completing a college degree is a massive challenge. While Starbucks employees endure said challenge they will amplify their performance at work to ensure they reserve their opportunity to a free education. This will transform transactional employees into strategically engaged employees.
Simple question: if Starbucks can make business leaders out of retail workers how is it possible that HR Generalists cannot become HR Business Partners?
The Test: are the vendors at #SHRM14 selling you something that works for them or partnering with you to create something that will make your business better?
The ability to recognize the difference between transactional vendors and strategic business partners is one that every SHRM14 attendee possess.
Ask Yourself: Why Are We Still Paying People to Put a Check in a Box?
Don't Forget to Remember!!!