Saturday, 18 July 2009

Even Newer (but Mildly Disappointing) Perspectives on Engagement

Having just reviewed an excellent academic paper on engagement in the previous blog, I was interested to see what would be the outcome of the UK government sponsored McLeod Review of employee engagement. This review is the outcome of almost a year long study by two Government appointed practitioners who have taken evidence from a range of senior executives, some academics and leaders of professional organizations with an interest in the topic. The outcome is a 150 page report on what engagement means, why it matters, barriers to an engaged workforce, how engagement might be made to work and a series of recommendations for making it work in all sectors of the economy.

While there is much to commend this report, and I'm sure it will get lots of press coverage, I have to say I'm mildly disappointed with the outcome. For the novice manager (and chief executive who still 'doesn't get it' -I can't believe it), it will serve as a useful introduction to the topic and provide some pointers on how to get it, but for the experienced HR professional it tells us little that is new. Nor, paradoxically, is it likely to have much impact on practice. By going for breadth (i.e.trying to engage as many mainly practitioner views on the subject as possible together with lots of randomly selected case illustrations), it lacks the kind of depth needed to really move the issue forward (i.e the insights that a good critical analysis and theoretically sound treatment that the topic deserves, e.g. the Balain and Sparrow white paper). It also exhibits a number of the failings the previous blog identified as characteristic of the engagement 'industry' - conceptually unclear, lacking in hard, predictive evidence, no clear logic of the antecedents and consequences of engagement, etc.

So, though this report certainly deserves to be read, did we really need a year long study of this kind to tell us what most managers have known for a long time (listen to the video introduction by David McLeod)? Maybe I expected too much for our money?


cv said...


I read Jon Ingham's reactions to the report (on his HR blog) and while of course this isn't the same as reading all 150 pages, my takeaway was similar to yours (e.g., "these are 'insights'? Hmmm").

Disappointing, since we hope that these large, prominent projects will spur learning and focus...

But the silver lining? We still need you (and Jon, and David Zinger, and ...) to be thinking, researching, learning and sharing your insights on your blog. And in your books, too.

There is (still) a need - a demand- for cogent insight and practical recommendations for engagement and also strategic HR. So, keep on with the good, complex, thoughtful stuff like your last post! cvh

Graeme's HR Blog said...

Many thanks for this, CV. Look forward to meeting you next month in Chicago