How to Drive Employee Engagement

This December, Yvette Burton, Ph.D. took over leadership of the Master of Science in Human Capital Management program at Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies as Academic Director after serving as the Vice President of Workforce Solutions and Intelligence at one of the most prestigious companies in the world, Lockheed Martin. A preeminent scholar-practitioner, she has over 20 years of years of global human capital management experience, including executive positions at Deloitte and IBM.

With this experience under her belt, she’s learned a thing or two about motivating employees. Dr. Burton defines employee engagement as “the degree to which employees think, feel and act in ways that represent high levels of enthusiasm and commitment to the stakeholders of the organization.” It is the job of human capital professionals to drive it as high as possible. She recently spoke with us about her tips for doing just that.

  1. Have a strategy. Business expectations, leadership needs, and employee demands are evolving faster than ever. Human capital management practice is filled with opportunities—both to innovative and lose competitive value. If you don’t have a guiding strategy for attracting talent, enabling performance, and organizing your staff, you won’t get very far in the right direction. Think of your strategy as twofold, Dr. Burton says. First, establish people-centric strategies owned by HR. Second, design systemic human capital levers owned by everyone at the leadership level.
  2. Link engagement to data. “As strategic advisors, HR leaders are expected to manage and understand the relationships between human capital investments and tangible business outcomes,” Dr. Burton says. Whether it’s productivity, audience engagement, or market share, use data to see whether your human capital decisions are having a positive impact. New technology like predictive HR analytics and enterprise social media tools can supply better insights than ever before.
  3. Acquire new skills and experience. Master’s programs in human capital management are designed to help leaders “acquire the agility and business acumen needed to navigate the rapidly changing world of work.” Many programs conclude with a an experiential final project. A “capstone project is an extraordinary experiential opportunity,” Dr. Burton says, “for students to apply what they've learned throughout the course of their graduate program—addressing complex business challenges and designing executable innovative solutions—in real time.”

Learn more about Dr. Burton’s fascinating career and the M.S. in Human Capital Management program at Columbia University's School of Professional Studies.