Q&A: How to ‘Systematize’ Increased Engagement

TMBC StandOut Engagement Pulse

Amy Leschke-Kahle, vice president of performance acceleration at ADP unit the Marcus Buckingham Company, and Joe Sullivan, vice president of ADP Talent Solutions, discuss their StandOut engagement product, the value that may be hiding in the nooks and crannies of employee engagement data, and why communications is critical to navigating transitions.  

Let’s talk about StandOut. What’s the product, and what does it do?

Joe: StandOut’s a digital platform that measures engagement, and creates visibility and connectivity between teams on a company level. So team leaders have access to tools that help them understand how their people are feeling, what they’re working on and how they can help as a team leader. That’s really important, especially in today’s environment.

Can you give me an idea of what some of those tools are?

Joe: Yes. Engagement Pulse is one of them. Then there’s Check-Ins, and also Performance Pulse. We also provide team leaders with personalized coaching tips inside the platform, and content that managers can leverage to help their team members know themselves, focus and engage with their team overall, hopefully driving effectiveness and communication within the organization.

How 'systematizing' your approach to listening and communications can boost team engagement. @ADP @standoutmbc #HR #HRTech Share on X

Can you paint a picture about how it works on the ground? If I was an employee, how would I approach this and what would I see? And if I was a manager, why would I use it?  

Amy: All we’re really doing is systematizing and scaling what research tells us the best world’s best leaders do. How do we help people do more and better work? How do we help leverage all those unique gifts and talents that every employee has? The research is incredibly clear. It says that—and our client experience says this, as well—when team members get more attention from their most important person at work, their team leader, engagement goes up. That means productivity goes up and safety incidents go down and likelihood to sue goes down. What StandOut does is leverage that knowledge and systematize it.

Amy: We give a little bit of intelligence, a super light touch, to our team leaders. What’s my most important work this week? What kind of a week did I have? What’s my most important work going to be next week? And do I need any help from you?

Amy: It’s very simple, light touch. If it’s not light touch, no one’s going to do it. And the team leader can see all of the important information to know, for example, what’s the most important work Joe needs to get done? Does he need anything from me? Is he doing okay? Is he not doing okay?

Amy: You do that cycle over and over and over. When that happens, when you systematize that, when it keeps happening and you get that stickiness—which is where technology comes in—we see engagement go up anywhere between 1.5 and 3 times, depending on the client and the team.

For products like this, the weak link is often the manager. How do you make sure you’ve got managers using it the way they’re supposed to?

Amy: It’s the fundamental principle of how the technology was built. We didn’t build a piece of technology to build a piece of technology. We built a piece of technology to help support and sustain a practice. And we built that piece of technology to help the person who is most important in that equation to get that engagement, to increase engagement. That’s the team leader.

Amy: So what differentiates StandOut from all of the other tools in the industry is we didn’t build it for me, the HR practitioner. We built it for the team leader. Everything we do goes through that lens.  

Joe: I’d add that why people use it more than a normal kind of HR technology is that when you interact with the technology, it’s an assessment, it’s personalized information, for not only your team members, but for yourself. So that technology is smart enough to know who you are, to know how you’re feeling and how your people are feeling. That personalized approach drives our adoption numbers up way beyond any other HR technology.

Can you give me an example of how this is tailored for managers?  

Amy: A really specific example is when I, as a team leader, go in and look at my team members. We call it a check-in. What are their priorities for the week? How did they feel about the previous week? What help do they need from me?

Amy: One of the things I get as a team leader is a personalized coaching tip. In fact, there are lots of personalized tips that are conditional to what we call a team member’s strengths roles—how the team member shows up at their best. Because Joe’s different than I am. Joe shows up differently than I do when he’s at his best.  

Amy: So every team leader gets these personalized tips to give them a starting point on, for example, how do I recognize Mary? How do I recognize Fran? How do I recognize Kelly? Because they’re three very different people. And if I recognize Kelly in the same way I recognize Fran, it’s not going to be nearly as meaningful.

Amy: So that personalization, at scale, really helps keep things sticky. It’s interesting because it’s not super-explicit. We don’t tell team leaders, hey, you’re going to keep using this thing! But interestingly enough, they do. Once they start, it just keeps going. I wouldn’t say it’s addictive, but it’s very, very sticky because clearly people are getting something out of it.

Amy: And we see that in the data. It’s not just a feeling that we see in usage data. We see it in the changes and engagement as well.

Could you expand on that? What are some of the changes you see, and what are some of the data points that tell you this is sticking?

Amy: Joe was talking about our Engagement Pulse tool. Engagement Pulse is a tool that we recommend clients use quarterly. Team leaders come onto Engagement Pulse to measure engagement, and an organization can launch it centrally, as well.

Amy: We’re frequently collecting data on how engaged people are, and we’re also collecting data every single week around if you got [their] attention or not. So we ask a question: Did your team leader connect with you about your priorities this week? So we know if individuals are getting attention.

Amy: From a data perspective, this is a very rich data source of whether you’re getting attention and how engaged you are. We can connect those two things to learn whether attention, in fact, moves the needle on engagement. The answer, not surprisingly, is yes. What might be surprising to people is how quickly it happens.

Amy: It happens incredibly quickly. Within generally 12 weeks, we see significant changes in engagement with attention. So as soon as you flip that switch on attention, it starts happening really frequently. Weekly, engagement goes up. And as soon as you turn that switch off, engagement goes down.

Amy: So if we can create that habit and weave it into how we do our work and keep it really simple, we see organizations fundamentally shift how they do work.

What are some of the specific ways managers might see their team’s performance change or its culture change?

Amy: We lean into [the] eight engagement calls questions that we ask… For example, whether my teammates have my back. And you’d say, well, my teammates have my back. What does that have to do with attention from my team leader? In fact, it has a lot to do with it.

Amy: We see things like this sense of team go up. We see recognition go up. That’s not recognition in the sense of “am recognized for excellent work?” But in the sense of I know I will be. So people’s confidence in their team leader goes up, trust in the team goes up. We see teams become more agile, able to respond more quickly to disruptions. Of course, that’s incredibly important right now because things are changing so quickly.

Amy: That frequency of attention is really what drives the outcomes that team leaders are looking for. What we’ve really done is reverse engineer the fundamental thing that moves the needle on engagement. We define it as the emotional precursor to extraordinary work, and double down on that thing.

Have you noticed any difference in how this is being received, or how it’s being used, since the pandemic began?

Joe: It’s been interesting. Obviously the event has created unprecedented human business impact all across the environment. Teams have reached out to us, and our clients have reached out to us, trying to maximize StandOut. That was kind of the first thing we knew, that things were percolating. We actually can track and see, all across our enterprise, examples of attention to teams increasing. Leaders today are much more attentive than they were before the pandemic. We can see, by date, the attention levels increasing, which is hugely encouraging for us.  

Joe: We’ve also received a lot of gratitude from our current clients, thanking us for having this tool. We’ve been able to push out a lot of content to help them in these times, even outside of our platform. And that’s why we went into a direction of a complimentary offer over time. We thought it would be the smart thing to do, the right thing to do to, to make this available to more of Marcus Buckingham’s clients and more of ADP’s clients.

How do you see this developing over time?

Joe: From my perspective, the times are unprecedented and environments have changed. You know the data. I don’t have to go through all of that around how many more people are remote, how we phase people back into the office.

Joe: Communication and continuity among companies and teams, where it really happens, will become amplified. The importance of that will become amplified. And tools like StandOut will provide clients with a platform to drive connectivity, to drive communication, to drive things that will help them get more work done in a more productive and a more engaged manner.

Amy: I agree with Joe. I think we don’t know what tomorrow is going to look like, let alone three years or three months, or even, really, three weeks from now. But what we do know is that connection is important. We’ve seen this data with organizations who’ve gone through previous disruptions. One of the key components to navigating through large disruptions is connection with your most important people.

Amy: If we’re able to help our clients, and ADP’s clients, come out the other side of this with more continuity, with more connectedness, with more visibility into what’s happening within the organization, and to be able to do that no matter where you work from, I think that’s… Well, “win” isn’t quite the right word, but it’s certainly a big win for our clients and our organizations.  

Disclosure: ADP is a sponsor of the HCM Technology Report.

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Image: Marcus Buckingham

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