Today’s public sector managers encounter increasingly complex corporate issues that call for empirically-based insight presented in a readily digestible way. Management tools providing actionable insight that support corporate goals are increasingly vital.
Indices are one such tool. Simply put, an index rolls up a more complex set of data into a single overall measure. An index can be used as a high-level performance measure with the ability to benchmark performance over time or across organizational units. For instance, to help inform its service improvement program the Ontario Public Service (OPS) uses a Service Quality Index based on client satisfaction data for a representative “basket” of services.
Since 2006, the OPS has used an Employee Engagement (EE) Index to track overall performance at the corporate, ministry and divisional levels. This EE Index is calculated on the basis of a set of nine questions reflecting Ontario’s definition of employee engagement, namely employees’ level of satisfaction with their immediate work environment and its organizational culture as well as their level of commitment to staying with the OPS and to supporting the achievement of its goals. The index and its supporting thematic analyses have provided increasingly valued insight for corporate human resource policy and strategic management.
By 2011, however, OPS senior leaders were thirsty for even more actionable insight. This was achieved by creating a set of “corporate indices” aligned with key corporate strategic goals.
These indices are:
- Productive Capacity Index: employees’ perceptions of their ability to effectively provide service and discharge their duties;
- Workplace Culture Index: employees’ perceptions of the physical, social and organizational environment in which they work;
- Talent Capacity Index: employees’ perceptions of the OPS’ ability to attract, develop and optimize its human resources; and
- Leadership Index: employees’ perceptions of the quality of leadership and supervision they receive.
In effect these indices constitute a “balanced scorecard” reflecting key elements of organizational excellence. These elements are fundamental building blocks for any organization. While the relative emphasis among them may change over time, their essential importance remains immutable.
The corporate indices were constructed on the basis of nineteen themes that drive EE in the OPS model (see chart). These themes were clustered into four groupings that form the basis for each corporate index. Each theme is in turn comprised of banks of questions that measure its various aspects. Together, these three layers of index, theme and questions allow the OPS to identify a key priority theme related to each index and drill down to the particular issue most affecting it.
The corporate indices’ role as a strategic “balanced scorecard” is enhanced by the fact that they also serve to bridge a notable gap that previously existed in the identification of EE priorities. Whereas previous analytical approaches based strictly on the EE Index identified priorities related to leadership, talent capacity and workplace culture, the themes associated with productive capacity never emerged. Yet the themes comprising productive capacity are those most closely associated with the ability of employees to effectively discharge their duties and deliver high quality services.
In fact, quality of service provided is the strongest driver of EE in the OPS. This means that the OPS – which subscribes to the Public Sector Service Value Chain – was not effectively leveraging the potential of EE to drive organizational results, including client satisfaction, and ultimately build public trust and confidence. The introduction of the productive capacity index and the identification of priority action themes supporting it remediates this significant gap.
By identifying priority areas in each corporate index the OPS now has a better overall picture of where to focus its efforts to improve employee engagement as a component of its broader strategic goals. Since scorecards for the indices have been generated for each ministry and for their individual division and even branch levels, more meaningful, context-sensitive action planning has been enabled down through the entire organization. Corporate indices have proven their worth in turning data into insight and in aligning resulting action planning with its key organizational goals.
Nicholas Prychodko is manager and Kalim Shah is senior advisor in the Centre for Employee Engagement and Client Satisfaction, Centre for Organizational Excellence, Ministry of Government Services.