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Do management rules, regulations and metrics reduce employee engagement levels?

July 28, 2011

Adrian C. Ott, an adviser on customer strategy and innovation, recently wrote a blog on the Harvard Business Review website. She titled the piece ‘Are scorecards and metrics killing employee engagement?’.

What an interesting question, to which the answer, I suspect, is actually ‘yes’, although to my knowledge there is no research to back this up. It seems intuitive that rules and procedures are put in place to protect businesses, especially in dispersed businesses where managers need to protect their employees, the business and even the customers in some cases. So, with the introduction of all these performance measures, rules, policies, metrics to measure all sorts of organisational outcomes, it often mean that employees lose their discretion to respond to events that require a response outside of the box and this can cause issues, not only for the employees themselves, but also for the customers and ultimately for the organisation.

Ott, shares the example of army personnel trying to board a plane. They were told that they needed to pay for their extra luggage although their military orders said this was not the case. The incident was captured on video. The airline employees continued down the path that the army personnel had to pay for their additional luggage due to the policies and regulations set by management further up the chain. We have all been there – there is no one higher up the chain that you can speak to, no one accountable for the response from the organisation. Grrr, as a customer this is very frustrating! The lack of autonomy for employees often means that they feel their judgement is not valued and they become disengaged and unlikely to ‘go the extra mile’ for their organisation or to provide exceptional service to customers. Given that employee engagement has been linked to a number of organisational effectiveness outcomes, it seems practical, especially in these tough times, that employee discretion, a sense of autonomy over jobs is the way forward.

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