5 Ethical Dimensions of IoT Leadership (Part 3)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Part 1 in this Series introduced 5 Ethical Dimensions of IoT Leadership and the importance of Ethical Foresight. Part 2 explored the 1st dimension – Ethical Design. Part 3 discusses Legal Compliance, the 2nd dimension.

2: LEGAL COMPLIANCE

The IoT is taking us into new legal and ethical territory, and it is critical that we understand the potential consequences of our choices. Laws will change as we learn more about the potential of the IoT to cause harm. Along the way, there may be perfectly legal options that can cause dire consequences. For example, many devices, including appliances, that were not originally designed to be connected to the internet or to each other are now being connected. This raises many legal and ethical issues including privacy, security and safety, which are not yet resolved, and the choices we make will have a direct impact on people and society.

Imaginers, creators and implementers of new technologies and products will need to think about the legal and ethical issues that might arise from the use of devices they design during the R&D phase, not just during deployment, when it is too late to build in robust protections for users. Since laws and regulations cannot keep up with the pace of technological innovation and change and rapid increases in device connectivity, self-regulation will be required to fill the gap.

The IoT is Taking Us Into New Legal and Ethical Territory

“Governance theorists are beginning to recognize that ‘objects of governance are only known through attempts to govern them’ 55 and that ‘governance is not a choice between centralization and decentralization. It is about regulating relationships in complex systems.’ 56” OSCE (Organization For Security and Co-Operation in Europe),  Self-regulation, Co-regulation, State Regulation

“IoT devices can quickly generate legal and ethical conundrums that no one currently has any idea how to resolve. Just one example: Should a driverless automobile take every action it can to protect its occupants from harm, even if that means “deliberately” harming other motorists or pedestrians?” AIG, The Internet of Things: Benefits and Risks

“Determining who controls all that data and what is done with it will lead us down some interesting paths.”  Jim Hunter, What Will the Internet Be When it Grows Up?, Techcrunch

The ethical thinking that guides self-regulation must be high level and holistic to address new domains of connectedness between human, animal, planet and machine. “Recent advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning suggest the longstanding dream of being able to converse with animals — in a limited fashion — could become a reality” (Bahar Gholipour, Dogs Can’t Speak Human. Here’s The Tech That Could Change That, NBC News). Microsoft’s “Joppa envisions an ‘AI digital dashboard where we’re really able to put our finger on the pulse of Earth’s natural systems’” (Stephen Schmidt, Artificial intelligence could play a pivotal role in managing and protecting planet’s natural resources, Public Radio International). The ethical realm of the IoT includes new stakeholders (animals and the planet) and stakeholders in new combinations (human-animal-machine and machine-planet-community).

To guide self-regulation efforts by individual actors in the IoT space, clear directives are needed that provide ethical boundaries. Since the IoT knows no geographic boundaries, a global perspective and global guidance are required. There are many resources now available to guide successful self-regulation, developed by global groups and organizations who imagine a successful and ethical IoT. Here are some of the resources available that draw ethical IoT boundaries:

Laws will gradually evolve in response to technology entering new domains of our lives, but we cannot wait for that to happen. Responsible businesses in today’s marketplace are benefitting from ethical brand value and tapping into its power to attract and engage constituents including consumers, employees and partners. They are responding to increasing demands for transparency and accountability. Those IoT actors who apply the emerging and increasingly clear global ethical guidelines are likely to benefit from a powerful and growing trend toward supporting ethical business. In The rise of the conscious consumer: why businesses need to open up (The Guardian) Jessi Baker points out that “In an increasingly open, digital world where authenticity is the buzzword of choice, businesses must keep up with growing demands for ethical behaviour and transparency in everything from employee rights and gender discrimination to the supply chain.” Companies can be innovative and at the same time design and deploy devices that meet increasing legal and ethical expectations.

This is Part 3 in a weekly series on 5 Ethical Dimensions of IoT Leadership. Part 4 will explore the 3rd dimension.

Contributors:

Gerald Santucci and Rob van Kranenburg served as reviewers and contributed substantial feedback that helped shape this paper’s coherence and usefulness.

About the Author:

Linda Fisher Thornton is an author and leader in the field of ethical thinking and leadership. She helps executives, leaders and groups learn how to lead using the 7-dimensional model described in her book 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership. Linda is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Applied Ethics and Global Leadership for the University of Richmond SPCS. Her website is www.LeadinginContext.com.

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5 Ethical Dimensions of IoT Leadership (Part 2)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This is Part 2 in a Series exploring 5 Ethical Dimensions of IoT Leadership in celebration of IoT Day on April 9th. Part 1 included an Introduction and the importance of Ethical Foresight. Part 2 explores the 1st Ethical Dimension of IoT Leadership: Ethical Design.

5 Ethical Dimensions of IoT Leadership

1: ETHICAL DESIGN

The IoT offers incredible opportunities for value creation and financial benefit for those who understand the risks, responsibilities and potential rewards. Many innovators are seeing the financial potential and moving to take advantage of the opportunity, seeing the IoT as a potentially unlimited new financial frontier. Making a profit responsibly in the IoT space, however, will require much more than just technological know-how. It will also require a clear understanding of laws and consumer expectations, and sensitivity to the inherent ethical risks and implications.

Ethical Design Requires Awareness and Accountability
“Every connected thing is susceptible to attack or misuse. In September 2016 at DEF CON, one of the world’s largest security conferences, 47 vulnerabilities affecting 23 IoT-enabled items (door locks, wheelchairs, thermostats and more) from 21 manufacturers were disclosed.”
Pew Research Center, The Internet Connectivity Binge: What Are the Implications?

“Responsibility, transparency, auditability, incorruptibility, predictability, and a tendency to not make innocent victims scream with helpless frustration: all criteria that apply to humans performing social functions; all criteria that must be considered in an algorithm intended to replace human judgment of social functions; all criteria that may not appear in a journal of machine learning considering how an algorithm scales up to more computers.” Nick Bostrom and Eliezer Yudkowsky, The Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Intelligence Research Institute

“Some companies are actually still working in the space where they just want to innovate, and they just want to build things, and ship things, and they will deal with the consequences later. But you have to ask yourself: do I want to be responsible for that?  That’s what ethics is all about.”    Emily Gorcenski, The Ethics of the Internet of Things, JSConf EU

The IoT is incredibly useful for human convenience, but since ethics isn’t already in the interface between people, data, devices and networks, ethical design is needed to protect human life, rights, quality of life and privacy. Dr. Vinton G. Cerf, Google Vice President, says, “We are entering an era in which software will make decisions for us that once we made for ourselves.” (Responsible Engineering and The Internet of Things, CIO Review) Dr. Cerf says “I tell my engineers that they have a basic ethical responsibility to build in safety checks and security mechanisms to protect innocent users.” Mark Jafee, CEO of Prelert, adds that “the only way to keep up with this IoT-generated data and gain the hidden insight it holds is with machine learning…systems that can learn from data, rather than follow only explicitly programmed instructions.” (IOT Won’t Work Without Artificial Intelligence, Wired.com)

As we look at the potential of the IoT to make our customers’ lives easier, we should also see the potential for harm – the IoT thinks for us, but lacks ethics until we design it in.” —- Linda Fisher Thornton

If we do not consistently apply ethical design, we will find ourselves in a situation where our advanced technology is harming us. As Ian Bogost explains, “Engineers bear a burden to the public, and their specific expertise as designers and builders of bridges or buildings—or software—emanates from that responsibility” (Ian Bogost, Programmers: Stop Calling Yourselves Engineers, The Atlantic).

By taking positive action in response to the ethical issues of the IoT, software engineers can take the lead in creating an ethical IoT and collectively orchestrate solutions that are ethical, timely, safe and considered essential for daily life.

This is Part 2 in a continuing weekly series about 5 Ethical Dimensions of IoT Leadership. Part 3 will explore the 2nd dimension.

Contributors:

Gerald Santucci and Rob van Kranenburg served as reviewers and contributed substantial feedback that helped shape this paper’s coherence and usefulness.

About the Author:

Linda Fisher Thornton is an author and leader in the field of ethical thinking and leadership. She helps executives, leaders and groups learn how to lead using the 7-dimensional model described in her book 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership. Linda is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Applied Ethics and Global Leadership for the University of Richmond SPCS. Her website is www.LeadinginContext.com.

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5 Ethical Dimensions of IoT Leadership (Part 1)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This post is the first in a Series exploring 5 Ethical Dimensions of IoT Leadership. It is being published in recognition of IoT Day on April 9th.

Introducing 5 Ethical Dimensions of IoT Leadership

The Internet of Things (IoT) can enhance people’s lives in many new ways, and because of its enormous scale, it will alter our global economy and the way we do business. Unlike the software design projects of the past, working in the IoT takes us into completely uncharted ethical territory. While we are in the process of trying to understand the global challenges and opportunities that the IoT represents, we are using varying definitions of “ethics” and see our responsibilities in ways that vary from simply following laws to harnessing the power of the IoT to serve humanity and the public good.  

The IoT is Connected, Intelligent and Entering Unknown Territory

“A world where everything is connected, and everything is intelligent—that’s where IoT is heading.” Life, the Universe, and The Internet of Things, UMass Amherst, Electrical and Computer Engineering

“The IoT is advancing exponentially. Some even say we’re in the “knee of the curve,” which is the point where advancement happens so rapidly that its potential uses are beyond the reach of speculation.” Atlantic BT, 3 Threats and 3 Benefits of the Internet of Things

While it would be convenient to consider only the financial and legal implications of the IoT, that would not be a sufficient response, since the Iot will potentially directly impact every man, woman and child on the planet. It is an ecosystem-level challenge, and ecosystem-level problems require ecosystem-level thinking and solutions.

Whether serving the public good will become an achievable outcome of the IoT or not depends on the future we imagine and create. Will the IoT just extend the domain where greed and profit dominate, or will it become a space for outstanding ethical innovation and ethical brand value creation? I believe that the latter is possible if responsible actors in the IoT space recognize and seize the opportunity to use their collective design power to imagine and create a better, more connected world.

This paper makes the case for thinking holistically about the ethics of the IoT in ways that will help us find workable solutions for a complex, evolving globally-connected ecosystem of people and things. It proposes a spectrum of 5 important dimensions of the Ethics of IoT that are advocated by leaders in the field and cannot be ignored. Rather than looking at one area of ethical concern at a time, this paper proposes that we think about ethics in a multidimensional way to get a broader view. It is hoped that this holistic definition of the Ethics of IoT will help us collaborate on the various dimensions of responsibility using common terminology, reducing the chances that differences in our global interpretation of ethical action will derail our progress.

The five ethical dimensions explored in this paper are adapted from the 7-dimensional model in my book 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership.  “Ethics” as applied to The IoT will be broadly defined as: ethical design; legal compliance; protecting human life, rights, quality of life and privacy; being an ethical contributor to the broader IoT Ecosystem; and supporting the public good (designing for safety, well-being and a better life for future generations). We” as applied here will be defined as responsible actors in the IoT space who want to create a better future through ethical design and implementation. A multidimensional approach to the Ethics of IoT is urgently needed if we are to generate a best-case scenario – the infinite possibilities of the IoT combined with high level ethical awareness, concern and action, resulting in a highly functioning system with a positive impact.

Balancing the Promise and the Peril of the IoT
 
“Understanding how to balance the promise of IoT connected devices with potential security challenges will continue to be a mega-trend in the years to come.” Christy Pettey, The IoT Effect: Opportunities and Challenges, Gartner

Improving Ethical Foresight

The power of the IoT lies in the ability to create new technologies that improve people’s lives. Because the IoT is globally connected and based on human-enabled interface, creating those new technologies must be approached thoughtfully. While considering the market potential and creating innovative products, we must also carefully consider the ethical implications.

The IoT Is Vulnerable to Misuse

“I like to think of it as putting the internet where it doesn’t normally belong.”  Emily Gorcenski, The Ethics of the Internet of Things, JSConf EU

 “(A bill was) proposed last February to address security issues with IoT-connected cars. One of the senators who drafted the bill, Sen. Ed Markey stated, “We need the electronic equivalent of seat belts and airbags to keep drivers and their information safe in the 21st century.” Kate Smith, All About Circuits, IoT Security: Risks and Realities

“Embedded devices are often designed to be plugged in and forgotten after a very basic setup process…As a result, any compromise or infection of such devices may go unnoticed by the owner and this presents a unique lure for the remote attackers.”  Symantec, IoT devices being increasingly used for DDoS attacks

Francine Berman (a computer-science professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and longtime expert on computer infrastructure) asks the burning ethical questions about the Internet of Things, “Who’s responsible and who’s accountable, what does it mean to be ethical, and what does it mean to promote the public good? (Kaveh Waddell, The Internet of Things Needs a Code of Ethics, The Atlantic)” Part of the difficulty in answering these questions lies in the complexity of the IoT. It is ever-evolving and expanding, its growth driven by innovators and designers who are not all “working together” in any formal way.

Rob van Kranenburg, founder of the IoT Council, points out that the “IoT is also questioning the nature of security, privacy and safety, and the definition of these terms becomes plural: privacies, securities, safeties as the situation is no longer ported to only individual human identities but to communities of capabilities and resources” and requires defining “what is ‘ethical’ related to those communities.”

We know that the financial potential of the IoT is immense. The challenge is learning how to harness that potential by understanding the needs and expectations of consumers; ensuring that we are designing and developing responsible products that improve people’s lives; and using ethical foresight to anticipate and reduce the risk of negative outcomes. As part of every action and decision, we must anticipate the future doors we may be opening to an ethical pandora’s box.

This is Part 1 of a paper that is being shared as a weekly blog series. Part 2 will explore the 2nd of 5 Ethical Dimensions of IoT Leadership.

Contributors:

Gerald Santucci and Rob van Kranenburg served as reviewers and contributed substantial feedback that helped shape this paper’s coherence and usefulness.

About the Author:

Linda Fisher Thornton is an author and leader in the field of ethical thinking and leadership. She helps executives, leaders and groups learn how to lead using the 7-dimensional model described in her book 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership. Linda is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Applied Ethics and Global Leadership for the University of Richmond SPCS. Her website is www.LeadinginContext.com.

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Leading With Values During the Pandemic

By Linda Fisher Thornton

As we all grapple with the pandemic, I am grateful to see so many businesses sharing resources and ideas freely and finding a way to do some good for others. Our current challenges can only be managed with everyone pulling together to make good choices.

Today I’m sharing three key values that should drive our decision making at this time when everything we carefully planned has been turned upside down.

Well Being is Paramount

During a pandemic, leaders must put the well-being of employees, customers and other stakeholders ahead of profits and administrative routines. While offering paid sick leave to part time employees may be an unplanned cost, allowing part time workers to take paid sick leave would increase the chances that they will stay home when sick.

Keeping Values at the Center of Our Decision Making

Leaders have an obligation to make decisions that respond to the human need employees have for protecting themselves and caring for children, spouses, parents and other loved ones.

Three ethical values that are particularly important for leaders to demonstrate during a pandemic are Do No Harm, Demonstrate Care and Communicate Transparently.

Do No Harm
• Act before anyone in the organization becomes infected and work toward the goal of no one becoming infected
• Minimize employee travel, take in-person gatherings online and take other precautions
• Look for ways to make it likely that sick employees will be able to stay home and not infect others

Demonstrate Care
• Help people learn how to prepare themselves.
• Adapt policies to support people who are quarantined or sick or caring for loved ones
• Maintain a sense of community to support each other during the crisis

Communicate Transparently
• Keep people informed about changes and why they are being made and communicate new procedures
• Include how the changes will benefit them
• Help people understand what they need to do

Leaders and organizations who apply all of these values during a crisis demonstrate that they care about their employees and customers. Knowing that precautions are being taken and that they will be kept informed will help employees manage their fear and move forward with what they need to do. To get the tactics right, leaders will need to keep values central to their decision making and demonstrate a high level of flexibility and concern for others.

See Linda Fisher Thornton’s advice for HR Managers in the April Issue of Virginia Business.

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Truth and Misinformation: How to Spot False Narratives (Part 3)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This is Part 3 in a Leading in Context series sharing information on how to spot misinformation and false narratives. In case you missed them, Part 1 explored truth and narrative, and Part 2 examined how data and motives relate to the truth. Part 3 will address the importance of media literacy.

What Role Does Media Literacy Play in Discovering the Truth?

Misinformation relies on people having an emotional reaction and immediately sharing information with others without taking the time to evaluate its credibility.

“Ask yourself: Is this a complicated subject, something that’s hitting an emotional trigger? Or is it a breaking news story where the facts aren’t yet able to be assembled? If the answer is yes, then you need to be ultra-skeptical.”

Miles Parks, Fake News: How to Spot Misinformation, NPR

To avoid being misled, when you have a strong emotional reaction to a story, look for the source of the information and look for corroborating information from other sources. (Miles Parks, Fake News: How to Spot Misinformation, NPR)

How can you spot a source of misinformation and false narrative?

One way to avoid misinformation is to check out whether or not the story is real before buying into it, sharing it and telling other people about it.

Sources of misinformation and false narrative may not share sources backing up the story OR the sources they share are not reliable. Media literacy is how we avoid being tricked.

Misinformation and false narratives may come from a dishonest leader or organization, or from a source who is motivated by CLICKS and ad revenue. These sources have a self-interested motive (and do not care about us or our well being). Whatever the source, our job is to stay literate as misinformation becomes more sophisticated and harder to spot.

Healthy Media Consumption

How You Can Stop the Fake News Madness

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Truth and Misinformation: How to Spot False Narratives (Part 1)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Sifting through mountains of information, people who want to do the right thing are finding it harder than ever to find the truth. We find ourselves dealing with the challenge of too much information and too little insight. This timely series will explore truth and misinformation. In each post, I will share a different way to spot misinformation and false narratives.

In Part 1, we’ll explore the concepts of truth and narrative.

What is Truth?

Much of what is referred to as truth, is really the narrative of a person or group trying to achieve a particular outcome. This motivated narrative may be leading people to a certain interpretation of the facts while calling it “the truth.”

The objective truth is elusive. To find a more objective truth requires uncertainty and doubt. Without uncertainty, we see an issue with “sureness” and “resolve” based on our own experience. Will our own experience reveal the “whole truth” or does finding the whole truth require something more?

When we see the “truth” only through our own life experience, we miss the vast domain that is the collective human experience. Can we really call this narrow understanding of the world the “truth?” It is, in effect, a self-interested view of the truth, one that will see what it wants to see. We can only accurately say “this is my truth, this is what I see, this is what I think, or this is how I feel.”

Is an objective truth even achievable? Scholars disagree. Some believe that there are no objective moral truths. Others believe that there is a universal truth that transcends the experience of any one individual.

“Our definitions and all the answers we’re looking for are really standing on the quicksand of cultural changes and political theories which are in conflict and contradiction, one with another.”

Ravi Zacharias, The Quest for truth in a post truth culture, Yale University

A person wanting to discover objective truth will have to work at it, using open-mindedness, detachment from preconceived ideas, and an intentional quest. That leads me to the first way to spot misinformation and false narrative.

How can you spot a source of misinformation and false narrative?

Sources of misinformation and false narrative will tell you that you have all the information needed and will discourage you from looking further into the issue.

A source of misinformation or false narrative will want you to respect its authority to do the thinking FOR you, so you will take the “information” at face value.

Creators of misinformation and false narrative will not want you to look beyond the statements made. Their power lies in the reader’s blind trust. In contrast, sources advocating objective truth will encourage you to learn about an issue so that you can see the situation and the value of the proposed solution for yourself.

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Consumer Trends: 5 Things Brands Should Know

shopping-carts-2077841_1920By Linda Fisher Thornton

We’ve seen many articles about ethical consumerism, conscious capitalism and the responsible consumer. The bottom line is that consumers continue to expect much more from brands than an honest and perfectly executed transaction. This week, I share a high level view of 5 key things brands should know if they want to be successful in reaching responsible consumers.

Consumer Trends: 5 Things Brands Should Know

#1: Customers want more than a perfect transaction. According to Scott Lachut of PSFK, referring to the PSFK x Suzy Future Of Retail 2020 Survey, “63% are interested in purchasing a product that comes with related services to help them get the most out of their purchase” and “67% are interested in being invited to an exclusive event or activity in their favorite store.”

#2: Sustainability is becoming a way of life. According to Deloitte in Consumer 2020: Reading the Signs, an increasing number of (consumers) will be advocates for sustainability and demand it in products and practices.”

 #3: It’s important to understand where consumers are – by really listening to their concerns. Thomas Kolster, in the Adweek article It’s Time for Brands to Stop Climate Grandstanding and Listen to Consumer Needs says it time to listen, not preach. 

#4: Consumers expect authenticity AND transparency. Deloitte in Consumer 2020:Reading the Signs, says that consumers “will be likelier to sense when companies are not being genuine or authentic” and they will “expect and demand transparency.”

#5: Brands need to aim for common values that cross the spectrum of ideologies in a divisive climate. Gartner Inc., in Gartner Identifies Top Five Consumer Trends for Marketing Leaders in 2020 highlights the importance of “utiliz(ing) broadly appealing values in messaging to connect with consumers across ideologies.” 

It’s getting harder to adapt to changing consumer expectations, and keeping up with trends is the only way to meet the challenge. Stay tuned for more insights in future posts!

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Ignoring Toxic Leadership is Not Worth the Tradeoffs

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Toxic behavior is a problem in organizations across industries and it’s often ignored. Organizations that delay dealing with toxic behavior, though, will find that it spreads and erodes the integrity of an ethical culture.

Toxic behavior may be “allowed” to flourish because an employee or manager is a “top performer” in other aspects of the job. This is a dangerous bargain for organizations to make. By allowing the toxic behavior to continue unchecked, they keep the perpetrator’s top sales results, but the fallout is not worth it. Factoring in the negative impact on trust, the reduction in the quality of work-life for employees and colleagues, and the erosion of the importance of values in the organization, it’s a losing proposition.

If we SAY in our values that we demonstrate RESPECT and then we allow disrespectful behaviors, we are sending the message that respect is not really required. Since toxic behaviors destroy trust, customers and employees who expect to be treated better often leave to find a safer place to invest their money, time and talents.

The problem worsens if entry-level employees are handled differently from top leaders. If you coach a toxic front-line employee before taking performance action that may include termination, but you allow a leader to continue unchecked, you are applying a power dynamic that can make employees feel powerless and victimized.

What are employees thinking when the leader who is verbally assaulting them is keeping the job, not being coached, and getting bonuses and promotions? They are thinking that the company has a different standard for leaders than the standards it applies to employees.

A double standard not only lacks integrity, but also tells employees, customers and colleagues of the toxic leader “we don’t care about your well-being.” Our constituents have choices, and they will exercise them if they are not treated well. When was the last time you went back to a store where someone was repeatedly rude to you? The bottom line is that organizations can’t afford the fallout from sending a “we don’t care about your well-being” message to the employees, customers or colleagues of a toxic leader.

Resources For Learning:

13 (Culture-Numbing) Side Effects of Toxic Leadership

Can a Toxic Leader Be Ethical? Yes and No.

Unethical Leadership: Selective Respect

Every Decision Changes the Ethical Culture Equation

Take Positive Action When You See Unethical Leadership

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Are We Focusing on Employee Engagement Metrics (And Missing the Point)?

conference-room-768441_1920

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Employee engagement is a metric that companies are closely watching. Using surveys, levels of participation in programs, and satisfaction reports, companies measure how well they engage those they lead. Butcould this heightened level of watching be part of the problem?

Gallup’s article “The Worldwide Employee Engagement Crisis” explains that “when companies focus exclusively on measuring engagement rather than on improving engagement, they often fail to make necessary changes that will engage employees or meet employees’ workplace needs.”

As companies move to real-time employee engagement dashboards, there is a lot of data to look at, and it changes daily. Have we become fascinated by the data, and not the level of engagement of employees? When we make a change and engagement goes up, it is easy to assume that the change caused the improvement, but organizational cultures don’t operate by cause-and-effect because they are complex systems. Many other things could have changed engagement besides that “one new program or policy” that we (the measurers) are thinking about at the moment. 

“Studies have shown that committed and engaged employees who trust their leaders perform 20 percent better and are 87 percent less likely to leave the organization, and that high-trust organizations experience 50 percent less turnover than low-trust organizations.”

Drea Zigarmi and Randy Conley, Focus on Employee Work Passion, Not Employee Work Engagement, Workforce.com

Taking a high level view, what “moves the needle” on engagement is really systemic changes in the culture, trust building and improving performance management. Since those connected systems are harder to get right every day than program and policy changes, they are sometimes overlooked for small changes that seem like “easy wins.”

According to Paul J. Zak in HBR’s The Neuroscience of Trust, some of the changes that really matter in employee engagement include job crafting, working together to make progress on goals, having discretion at work, information sharing, leader vulnerability and facilitating whole-person growth.

“Today, more than twice as many employees are motivated by work passion than career ambition (12 percent vs. 5 percent), indicating a need for leadership to focus on making the work environment compelling and enjoyable for everyone.”

Brown, Melian, Solow, Chheng & Parker, The Naked Organization, Deloitte Insights

While measuring employee engagement is important, in the end the metrics are not the point. The ultimate goal is to create compelling workplaces where people flourish and grow, supported by highly competent ethical leaders.  These ethics-rich cultures generate high levels of trust (through authentic leadership, respect and care) and attract and retain talented people who want to make a difference.

The most engaging leaders can simultaneously meet organizational goals, enrich employee’s lives and meet the needs of multiple constituents using a careful balancing act based on mutual benefit. 

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