Mark Robilliard

Employee engagement is clearly a desirable achievement, but the road to it needs to be paved with a common language.

Employee engagement – let’s talk results

Last week’s blog seemed to strike a chord – loudly. Clearly, people (employees) do not want to be equated to things. They want to be valued, appreciated and included – to use the modern parlance, they want to be engaged.

The employee engagement conversation has been going on for some years now. The theory goes something like this; if we get all our people focused on achieving our targets, they are more inclined to work on things that add value towards those targets.

The term “employee engagement” is generally used to refer to the degree to which your employees feel connected to the organisation – the degree to which they think and feel like it is “their business”.

The degree of employee engagement is typically measured using an organisational climate survey or similar to capture how the employees are feeling about certain aspects of the organisation, including their job, the products and services, their manager, the executive, the customers, the degree of personal development offered, potential for advancement and so on.

A lower engagement score translates into a “begrudging” workforce – reduced performance and results. Passive.

A higher engagement score indicates that the employees enjoy what they are doing, are focused on delivering a quality product or service and actively volunteer suggestions and proposals for new opportunities, and also innovations and improvements. Active.

It’s obvious that moving to a higher engagement level will benefit the organisation, and also the employee as they will be enjoying their work.

My pragmatic self believes that the most simple and essential element is often the one that is overlooked. If you want your people to be engaged in achieving your targets, your people need to be literate in the very language of those targets – the financial and business language that records, measures and reports.

Employee engagement requires an organisational lexicon that in turn creates a richness of communication, a clearer understanding and consequent results-focused activity. You want your people communicating clearly and effectively, and particularly so when that communication involves the achievement of targets.

Imagine for a moment just how many decisions are being made in your organisation today. And how many of those decisions would you say are optimal? From our experience, many organisations are still assuming that their key people are financially literate, or that they at least know enough to get by. But this falls short when they are also expected to establish and continue results-focused conversations with their teams and colleagues.

Perhaps there are two aspects to consider with regard to results language:

  1. Destination language. This is the language that specifically focuses on the target and how it is measured. “Your division must achieve a return on investment of at least 18.75% in the next financial year.”
  2. Journey language. This is the language used to communicate along the way, towards the destination. It will typically be a conversational mix of financial and non-financial indicators. “Our northern region sales for the month were $X and our employee turnover has decreased to 6%.”

Whether it is the language of the journey or the destination, literacy is required if your people are going to be engaged. And financial literacy builds business acumen.

Bottom line: You need your people to clearly understand the connection between their actions and the results sought. Outcome: actions more targeted to results.

If you would like a copy of our two-page white paper on this subject called “Improving Results Through Shared Financial Language”, email me via comments below and we’ll send you one. Warning: it may contain compelling traces of advertising material.



Mark Robilliard and business partners Peter Frampton and Carmen Mettler started a journey to find a new way for anyone to ‘get accounting’ and use it in their job and life to create value. Accounting Comes Alive was born and now provides workshops all over the world using their unique and friendly Colour Accounting™ learning system that really does work, for everyone.


To read more Mark Robilliard blogs, click here.



Graham Jenkins writes: While I agree, it seems that too many managers have trouble using financial criteria to produce their business “to-do” list. Many don’t seem to understand how the P&L links to the balance sheet. Our task as leaders must be to explain this stuff.



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