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Is engagement just a buzzword?

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Companies are tripping over themselves to include engagement into their retention strategies, but do they really understand what it means?

“It’s not just about making sure employees are happy, it’s more about why and how you want people to be attached and committed to your organisation,” Tristram Gray, vice president of HR for Ericsson SEA and Oceania, said.

“Engaged employees result in happy customers and, if I’m being brutally honest, happy customers spend more money so it makes business sense,” Gray said.

He was speaking on a panel at Talent Management 2013, along with Lewis Garrad, managing director for Sirota APAC and Fiona Muller, senior director of HR for Microsoft APAC.

Muller said while engagement surveys are a great way to collate employee data, HR must be willing to dive deeper.

“There’s a lot data available but you really have to break it down to something a little more meaningful and specific to the problem you’re trying to solve as a business,” she said.

Garrad added: “Engagement is one part of this extremely interesting and powerful data that you collect and you should be thinking about it as an organisational effectiveness programme. Very sophisticated organisations are connecting that data on an individual basis.”

However, all three panellists agreed it is critical the data is not over complicated.

“Many HR people are not statisticians. They want the insights provided by the data and what they can do with it,” Garrad said.

The panel also discussed the relationship between engagement and compensation, and Muller said it is important for companies to have conversations about where compensation sits within the company culture.

“Otherwise, you would end up using compensation as a driver for many things and it becomes a very expensive exercise. Compensation is of course very important, but then again, it has its place,” she said.

Gray said HR also has to keep in mind employees are willing to make trade-offs in terms of compensation if engagement levels are high within the organisation.

“Even though they may not be as highly paid in the industry, because employees feel recognised and valued, they go the extra mile. You may not have to pay in the 90th percentile to get an extra productivity boost with the more committed and engaged employees,” Gray said.

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