Improving Organisational Employee Engagement


Is it possible to increase employee engagement in an economic downturn?  What is the effect?  Employee engagement refers to the level of staff commitment and responsibility, it is a bellwether of emotional capital created by employees.  In a six month leadership development process using the Six Seconds Vital Signs framework, engagement increased from 33 to 70%. At the same time, plant performance increased by 9.4%.



This is a case study of a Japanese multinational corporation that manufactures construction, mining, and military equipment, as well as industrial equipment like press machines, lasers and thermoelectric generators. While headquarters are in Tokyo, the corporation was named after a city there where the company was founded in 1921.

The campany is the world’s second largest manufacturer of construction equipment and mining equipment. However, in some areas (Japan, China), it has a larger share than her conterparts. It has manufacturing operations in Japan, Asia, Americas and Europe.

In Italy, it has a plant in Este for the construction of diggers; the Este plant is the focus of this case.  The global recession significantly affected the plant’s sales.  The plant received a directive from Japan to prepare for the next opportunities that would arise post-recession, but in the recessionary climate, management faced serious struggles, including low engagement.

The HR Director, explains: “The project was in the midst of a period of crisis, including reduction in staff.  In this difficult period, we still need to be able to team up and go forward.  At the same time, it’s important for us to identify and develop the people who can feed the next stage of the company’s growth.”

He continues: “The decision to invest in an innovative project is inherent in the word crisis: as well as a time of difficulty, this should be a time of opportunity. Therefore, we felt it was necessary to change perspectives; to see our work from a new angle.  We wanted to involve our key personnel in a methodology that would allow us to escape from the usual patterns.”

In April 2012, the company partnered with Six Seconds to increase the engagement of people in order to build competitive capability and create a case demonstrating the plant’s commitment for innovation.   The project blended assessments, training, and project-based learning to involve managers in creating a climate for innovation. The project focused on 24 second-line managers.


The project was designed using the Change MAP, an iterative process for organizational transformation.  The Change MAP follows three phases:

Engage:  Build buy-in

Activate: Develop new capabilities.

Reflect: Lock-in wins.


The phases of the company’s project are depicted in the graphic below:



Two assessments were used in the program; an individual measure of emotional intelligence, and group assessment of People Engagement.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence was measured with the Six Seconds Emotional Intelligence Assessment (SEI).[2]  The SEI is based on the Six Seconds Model of Emotional Intelligence consisting of eight core competencies divided into three macro areas:

6seconds_model-clearSelf Awareness, called “Know Yourself” includes two competencies: Enhance Emotional Literacy and Recognize Patterns.

Self Management, called “Choose Yourself” includes four competencies:  Apply Consequential Thinking, Navigate Emotions, Engage Intrinsic Motivation, Exercise Optimism.

Self Direction, called “Give Yourself,” includes two competencies: Increase Empathy and Pursue Noble Goals.

The assessment provides an overall EQ score plus scores for each of the three macro areas and each of the eight competencies for a total of 12 normative values.

In this project we have used two reports from the SEI toolset:

BBP: Brain Brief Profile – this tool identifies “Brain Style,” the individual’s current tendency for processing emotional and cognitive data.  BBP is designed as an engaging, quick, meaningful starting point for developing emotional intelligence

GR: Group Report – this profile shows distributions of EQ competencies.  It is designed for program planning, and for coaching/training team leader


As explained, the program design follows the Change MAP, Six Seconds’ framework for transformation. There

change-case-engage-phases are three phases in this process: Engage, Activate, and Reflect.

The Engage phase focuses on creating readiness, and included pre-assessment and initial training.

The Activate phase focuses on building capability, and included additional training and individual coaching.

The Reflect phase is about solidifying learning, and included post-assessment and evaluation.

In total, the program included 30 hours of work in presence for each group, some distance learning activities and reflections plus some assignment to be done between one meeting and the other.

Kindly note, the practical details of the 3 phase intervention isn’s stated here.


In post-assessment of managers on Team Vital Signs, the overall engagement index increased from 33% to 70%.  The percentage of people in the “Engaged” category shifted from just over 8% on the pre-test, to 50% on the post-test.  At the same time, the percentage of disengaged dropped from 41.6% to 9%, representing a large-scale shift in attitude.

Meanwhile, the plant’s efficiency scores improved by 9.4%, demonstrating an important link between increased engagement and the bottom line.


Results on each scale also improved dramatically, as shown in this graphic, where post-test scores are in red:



Blasi summarizes the results as follows: “The key lesson is in the approach used. Managers in the project experienced something new, and then, on their own initiative, they started to utilize the method in communicating and managing their employees.  This is the real test of any training:  Do people start to use what they learned? Now we need to spread this methodology to a wider audience, but certainly it’s clear that things have changed for the better.”

One specific example Blasi identified is the contagious effect of a positive team experience.  “Looking at the environment in the trainings, people felt good – it was practical, but also warm.  They then worked to re-create this experience for others. And, in my opinion an added value, we can definitely see that for many people involved, the word ‘emotion’ is no longer taboo.”

pre-post-engagementThe study is based on a small group of managers, but it shows that effective teamwork has a significant effect on the larger community.  Using an “emotionally intelligent” process for building and supporting teams seems to work.

Blasi concluded: “First of all, a very banal lesson: if you do something you can obtain  results, but if you do nothing definitely you will not get anything.

Every change is a risk, and taking about a ‘taboo’ subject such as emotions in a very technical organization does seem like a risk! But it’s a basic idea: if we have people staying in their comfortable culture, they will not think differently.  We need to ask them questions and to allow them to see from a different point of view.  This provides another lens for them to see their everyday behaviors.

I am not saying all, but many have understood this and are starting to realize that they have an impact on their people. Emotions are real, even if you can’t touch them or see them… they touch others in a powerful way. For me, this awareness is the revolutionary thing that has happened.”


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