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How Do We Measure Innovation, Loyalty and Other Abstract Concepts?

October 31, 2012

Dear In Search of Answers:

Congratulations on having employees who work hard, care about the company and strive to do well. This is the definition of a fully engaged workforce. Whatever you are doing, keep doing it.

Though I do understand your desire, abstractions/feelings such as commitment and loyalty cannot be made concrete nor be accurately measured. Attempts to do so actually have a negative effect on performance. When you hold someone to a nebulous ideal, you inadvertently set him/her up to fail and you build distrust. This lowers commitment. Brainpower is also wasted.

You have concrete performance metrics such as projects completed on time, on or underbudget, safety records, profits, retention, etc. Those are clearly defined and objective. People respect those measures. Think for a moment about the statement: "We need to be more innovative."

What is that ever going to mean?

Instead, asking "How do we come in underbudget next time?" is more likely to spur innovation and creativity and produce results.

Thusly, if you are measuring so as to increase commitment, innovation and so on, you risk the opposite will occur. The same is true for job competencies and descriptions since they are attempts to control performance rather than inspire it.

Abstracts are driven by a desire to do a better job and being able to exceed the expectations of the marketplace. Leadership fosters this by removing barriers and providing outstanding support—information, tools, training, goals/objectives, discipline, etc. The barrier could be a bad manager, lack of ability or bureaucracy. Finding these requires listening to the questions, suggestions and complaints of employees and responding to the satisfaction of employees. This is no small task and it is management's most important role.

Now, since your management appears to know how to create engaged employees, I recommend you codify their methods. Then create a training program for new executives, managers and supervisors to replicate these actions. And finally, use a trained observer to detect deviations tending to reduce the level of engagement and take corrective action.

Let me end by saying that when management does its job to the absolute highest standard, everyone is going to rise up to meet it. And the difference in performance between disengaged and engaged employees is in the hundreds of percentage.

If you have any questions or need further assistance, don't hesitate to contact me.

SOURCE: Bennet Simonton, Leadership Science, author of "Leading People to Be Highly Motivated and Committed."

LEARN MORE: Please read “How Can We Be Certain Our Workers Perform at a High Level?” for tips on driving a high-performance workplace.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.