For the last ten-plus years, the God called "employee engagement" has reigned supreme over all of the so-called "people fields" and, for the most part, swept up internal communication in its wake.
This week's news that KPMG has not only abandoned its employee survey but repudiated the notion of "employee engagement" as having any causal relationship with performance, represents a historical opening for practitioners and businesses alike. Â It is a golden chanceÂ to shift the focus away from driving "engagement" numbers and towards how effective business communication can directly improve performance.
The logic is obvious
At a basic level the logic is obvious. Effective, strategic internal communication can reduce ambiguity and increase clarity.
Good internal comms can align definitions of processes and objectives, and illustrate examples of good and bad practice. It can inject external perspectives while driving internal consistency. It can help identify people who have added impact as informal leaders and institutional lynchpins. Less obviously, itÂ can be a vehicle for catalyzing consensus and even for the development of projects and products that are easier to execute or sell because of communicator involvement.Â These are things that can move the needle in a business, even if they don't line up with some "engagement" survey.
KPMG's decision representsÂ a historic opportunity, to begin the long-overdue uncoupling of the business communication profession fromÂ the engagement industry. Seizing that opportunity will change the terms.
10 thoughts on “From “engagement” to performance: KPMG decision gives a historic break to business communicators”
Great testimony to common sense when the poachers turn gamekeepers. Shame this “high performing company” promulgated the lie in tbe first place.
But the death blow they may have delivered to the Cult of Engagement is laudable nonetheless.
Great post Mike!
Whether the language is old or bright and shiny new, consultants donâ€™t lead companies. All change-management initiatives have to begin at the top and be measured by those leaders. Further, each reporting entity must be allowed to decide how to implement, because only they have the in-the-trenches wisdom. Finally, leaders must brace for at least 3 years of incremental success â€“ even more, if itâ€™s an old, hard-wired system, with unamortized physical plants to repurpose. That means dealing with a dip in profits, uncomfortable quarterly shareholder meetings, and even a little competitive ground ceded to the opposition. It takes a brave leader to do this. And people like that donâ€™t exactly litter the landscape. They certainly arenâ€™t to be found in the consulting space.
Cathy–that is why the effort to overturn management orthodoxy is one that needs to be pursued, because change does not come naturally and rarely comes as a result of management bravery. Change becomes more likely when managers have some comfort and belief in potential success.
Are you saying there’s still a need for consultants? I agree. Maybe also a need for professional change managers?
Yes…outside inspiration and skills. These things exist and frequently add value.
I’m not quite sure why Cathy brought the subject of consultants into this discussion – I thought it was about the links between communications, engagement and performance? Did I miss something?? As a former/occasional consultant, I find the comments a little insulting. No, consultants don’t lead companies or strategic change; neither do we expect or propose to – that’s the business leaders job, and a good leader will know his/her limits and when to call for expert advice. The consultants job is always to facilitate, guide and advise in collaboration with management. Making major change happen has to be a collaborative effort of everyone in the business – at every level.
I agree with the article’s statements about the power of effective internal communications. But communication alone can’t drive results. If employees don’t feel supported by their managers, don’t respect company leadership, don’t feel that their efforts are being appropriately recognized — then messages will fall on deaf ears.
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