Duuoo gives managers the foundation they need to lead engaged teams.


December 22, 2016

Employee Engagement Strategies vs. Performance Strategies?

Most leaders already know that the most important resource in the knowledge economy, the creative economy and the experience economy is the highly specialised, creative employees. This broad group of employees is crucial for both private sector competitiveness and public sector quality and efficiency. The challenge for future leaders will therefore be to release the full potential of this type of highly specialised, creative staff.

One way to release the employee’s full potential is to balance employee engagement strategies with/and performance strategies. Many companies create new employee engagement strategies and employee performance strategies through the annual Employee Engagement Survey and on that basis meter the climate in the organization.

However, most leaders are way more comfortable working with employee performance strategies than with employee engagement strategies. So the true challenge for future leaders will be to find the right balance between these two strategies.

Planning employee engagement and performance strategies

A crucial part of any employee strategy should be to conduct regular 1-on-1s with your people. 1-on-1s is an essential means to exchange feedback, to show recognition and to build trust and relations between the leader and the employee. However, most companies rely mainly on annual employee engagement surveys. The most crucial flaw with the annual employee engagement survey is that they point 4-8 months backwards and therefore becomes reactive.

The life cycle of the annual employee engagement surveys begins with a two-three months period of collecting data followed by a two-three months period of analyzing the data and manufacturing reports. After 4-6 months, these reports end up at the desk of the strategic management or HR department who then initiates the revision of the existing employee engagement strategies and employee performance strategies. Once new strategies are created and first actions taken, most likely 4-8 months have past since initiating the survey process.

Do things change in 4-8 months? YES - probably almost everything changes within 4-8 months. People, tasks and organizations change so rapidly that the strategies based on annual surveys are most likely outdated when they hit the floor. That is the main reason why many companies are now looking for new ways and tools to create and combine proactive employee engagement strategies with performance strategies.

Using 1-on-1 meetings strategically

Using a high frequency of 1-on-1s strategically will provide a proactive and continuous approach that fits the modern and highly specialised, creative staff. But don’t just transfer the old habits of the annual surveys into your 1-on-1 meetings. 1-on-1s should be about more than just task management, performance evaluation and to-do lists. Instead, finding the right balance between employee engagement questions and performance strategies questions is essential. At Duuoo we have thought a lot about just that. We have talked with endless numbers of managers and employees about what is valuable for them to include in a 1-on-1 meeting and compared it with the most recent research in the field. Our results show, that an effective and valuable 1-on-1 should encompass questions about performance - at a macro level - combined with intrinsic non-performance questions.

1-on-1 meetings as a means of sticking to your employee engagement strategies
The Duuoo Conversation Engine

The Duuoo Conversation Engine is designed to provide a balanced distribution of Talking Points within two overall entities:  

Employee PerformanceEmployee Engagement

It is our experience, that for many managers it is difficult to find the right balance between employee performance questions and employee engagement questions in the 1-on-1 meeting. Many managers simply feel more confident attending to employee performance than to employee engagement.

In Duuoo we believe that the two overall entities are equally important in order to manage successful and engaged teams - the one entity being a prerequisite for the other. That is the reason why The Duuoo Conversation Engine provides Talking Points within both employee performance and employee engagement at every 1-on-1 meeting.

So how do you as a manager find the right balance? And why is it important to make room for both?

The following focuses on how you can use best practice of both employee engagement strategies and employee performance strategies and how to balance your current 1-on-1 meetings.

Employee engagement and performance
Employee Performance Strategies

Employee performance is key to any workplace but the way to optimize it has changed a lot over the years. In the industrial economy, employee performance solely mean efficiency and was be understood the same way as a machine works: fast without any questions asked and according to the manager’s rational plan. Rational meant being efficient. Efficient meant being obedient to the manager and to the master plan. The manager’s tool box consisted mainly of control and measuring tools whereas motivation was expected to happen through extrinsic rewards such as economical compensation.

Yet, the prerequisite for the rational employee performance strategy were two things;

  • a static and unchanging master plan
  • the manager should, at all times, know everything in details

But that doesn't correspond well with the fast moving, postmodern, globalized economy we are all a part of; Everything changes - and it changes fast! According to professor at Roskilde University, Erik Axel, a static master plan, stability and status quo is an illusion belonging to the past;

If consistency and stability is our only way to explain how cohesive activity is ensured, we are into trouble, when we are confronted with constant change. (Erik Axel, Professor, Roskilde University, Denmark)

And also, we have to ask ourselves, when did a leader ever know everything?

Duuoo’s Employee Performance Strategies

Instead of mere control and employee performance ratings, time has now come to think employee engagement across all levels throughout the entire organization. We believe in the slogan;

Employee Engagement over Control - Change over Stability

For an organization to learn, develop and change, employees should participate in and contribute to change.

Employee performance should be strengthened at a macro-level - we don’t imagine that the leader could or should know everything at micro-level. We want to bring forth the employee’s opinion and view in order to learn from him/her and equally to help, guide and coach him/her. We believe that this approach will result in a real performance increase.

Hence, our Talking Points are about overall work structure and alignment and not about specific task or assignment management. Many companies probably already have a system or tool for task and project management and in our opinion, the 1-on-1 meeting is not the right time to do task management at micro-level.

By listening to and learning from our people we are ready to grasp the constant change of the modern world. The organization is changing - change is the organization!

The way the Duuoo Talking Points are generated within this topic, is with a focus on the employee’s understanding of her/his tasks and goals and on how the manager can help the employee to perform better;

Four examples of Talking Points about employee performance:
  • If you were the manager, what would you change in terms of work planning, work structure, and work alignment? And why?
  • What areas of your work are you most/least confident about?
  • What would it take for you to be even more efficient at work? And how can I help you?
  • What is the single most helpful process we have here?
What is Employee Engagement Strategies?

Good employee engagement strategies focus on increasing the feeling of intrinsic sentiments and rewards. For the sake of simplicity we have grouped these sentiments into six main categories;

Autonomy and influenceMeaning and purposePredictability and responsibilityRelations, trust and social supportRewards, recognition and appreciationLearning and self-development

Employee engagement strategies and performance strategies

Employee engagement comprises a vast list of sentiments and is difficult to measure precisely and to put into diagrams. To expand on the above list, the term employee engagement also includes inspiration and motivation, feedback, self-actualization, job security, a good work-life balance, etc. Basically everything that Abraham Maslow included in his model; ‘Hierarchy Pyramid of Human Needs’ all the way back in his 1943 paper, "A Theory of Human Motivation".

Thus, the Duuoo Talking Points within employee engagement take the stance from the heart of human needs and human motivation. In addition to that, the Talking Points intend to elaborate and develop existing narratives and convey new knowledge. To accomplish this, the Talking Points use reflective and dialectic techniques that draw on the practice of coaching. As a counter example of this, we don’t use common survey scale questions like:

I have great friends at workI like my bossMy boss cares about me as a personI trust my boss

Duuoo’s Employee Engagement Strategies

Instead meaningful and powerful Talking Points should surface new knowledge. A technique that Ernest Hemingway called the Principle of the Iceberg. According to Hemingway, a good question should reveal the eight-tens of the iceberg that lies beneath the water.

People are engaged and inspired by different sentiments at work but one thing is pretty basic for all human beings; the desire to connect and relate to others. Research shows that people who have strong relations with other people cope better with changes, live longer, perform better and are in general more happy and satisfied with life.

Hence, building relations is paramount when talking about employee engagement strategies and right kind of balance in your 1-on-1 meetings leads to building relations. Think about this, it’s pretty simple; “Talk, connect, engage!”

At Duuoo we use a variety of question types, concepts and techniques in order to succeed with that. Below are four examples of Talking Points, that try to go beneath the surface:

Four examples of Talking Points about employee engagement:

What made you the person we know today? What were the main steps?If you had all the fundings, time and people needed, which idea would you work on the next three months?What happened to the last idea created in the team?What is one of your favorite quotes?

Finding the right balance between employee performance and employee engagement

To find the right balance between employee performance and employee engagement the first step is to realize, that micromanagement and annual performance reviews aren’t sufficient. Neither is control nor total freedom. A good manager should be able to balance between control and helping, guiding and coaching the employee. Tasks, projects and jobs should of course be reviewed and feedback should be given and received.

Balancing the employee engagement strategies as well as the performance strategies

In the daily work the leader has many opportunities to communicate top-down. Research shows that people and organizations learn, change and develop through employee participation. That is why creating a space for the employee to talk, share and explain is essential to increase both employee performance and employee engagement.

Hence, a successful manager makes sure that in general the 1-on-1s are a ‘talking space’ for the employee and a ‘listening space’ for the manager. Only through real employee participation a company can learn, change and develop and be able cope and compete within a global reality.

If you find it difficult to find the balance between employee performance and employee engagement you can try out Duuoo for free by clicking here.

Magnus Stawicki Blak

My name is Magnus and I work as an Employee Engagement Specialist at duuoo.io