We Don’t Exist to Increase Employee Engagement: By Dave Vance

We Don’t Exist to Increase Employee Engagement

By Dave Vance

 

A surprising number of L&D professionals seem to believe that our primary mission, our main purpose, is to increase employee engagement. They are wrong and their mistaken belief will lead them to misallocate resources, choose inappropriate learning, and deliver suboptimal outcomes.

It is always good to start at the beginning, and the beginning for any department is to know why it exists. What is its mission or purpose? Ideally, learning leaders have thought carefully about this and have created a written mission statement or at the very least can articulate the mission informally. In most organizations, the learning department has the capability and potential to do much more than provide or facilitate learning to increase employee engagement. L&D has the potential to help the organization achieve many, if not all, of its goals. This means helping to achieve business goals like increasing revenue by 10%, reducing costs by 5%, improving patient satisfaction by 3 points, or reducing injuries by 20%. This also means helping to achieve HR goals like improving the leadership score on the annual survey by 5 points, meeting all compliance-related goals, and yes, increasing employee engagement. It  means providing the basic skills needed by employees new to a position and the more advanced skills needed by experienced employees especially in knowledge-based companies like those in consulting and accounting. Last, learning can help address many needs and challenges that fall below these high-level goals but which nonetheless must be addressed for the organization’s overall success.

So, learning has a very broad reach and can help an organization achieve many of its goals and address numerous challenges. A good mission statement should reflect this broad reach. For example, “Help our organization achieve its goals” or “Help our organization be successful”. If L&D’s mission is simply to increase employee engagement, then whose mission is it in your organization to help achieve all the other goals and meet the numerous needs and challenges that can be addressed though learning? It is true that your sales department could do its own learning, quality its own, manufacturing its own, customer care its own, and so forth. Basically, any department that needs learning does its own. That leaves L&D to address just HR goals and maybe just employee engagement if a separate department takes care of leadership development. This is a very sad state for L&D and for your organization as a whole. Think about what this state implies. Most often, other departments do not have learning professionals so the quality of the needs analysis and the learning is low. Someone is assigned to take care of the training needs on a part-time basis and they may not be happy about it. And training people in these departments are all isolated from one another with no opportunity to pool resources, share knowledge, and specialize.

For most organizations, the learning department can have a much more powerful impact if it has a broad mission which includes helping the organization achieve its business goals and if it is organized to support more than a single department. Let’s nor limit ourselves to simply addressing HR goals like increasing employee engagement. Instead, let’s address business and HR goals as well as the basic and advanced skills our employees need for success. What is your mission?

Comments

  1. Diana H says:

    We are working on our mission, so thank you for this! Most insightful, as usual.

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