For years (20+) the talk has been about Employee Engagement. Over that time a creative tension has developed. Tension between the certainty that engagement matters and the uncertainty of how much it matters.
Just about everyone agrees that engaged employees perform better, deliver more, and stick around longer. But many of us want to know how much better, how much more, and how much longer?
The employee engagement survey is an increasingly popular tool. Gallup,Towers Watson, Blessing White, and more services offer various surveys. But too often the focus is on increasing the numbers without sufficient (any?) attention on how to make the numbers make a difference. A difference in delivery, performance, retention…
Identify employee engagement results desired. Engage leaders and managers in discussing how employee engagement can benefit the company. Start with high-level benefits (profitability, employee retention, market share, customer satisfaction…). Bring the discussion to more specific function and department benefits.
Build (or have built) the survey. Wrap your survey around action questions, a mixture of short-answers and raters (1-2-3-4). These questions point you toward actions employees see as valuable to improved engagement. This survey can establish the baseline that indicates what your engagement numbers are. These are what you want to go from, the basis from which to increase.
Announce the survey. Let all players — leadership, management, employees — know that the survey will happen, why it will be conducted, and what you will do with the results. That last item — what you will do with the results — is a promise. Be careful what you say; be sure you can/will live up to it.
Conduct and promote the survey. Don’t stop hyping the survey while it’s being conducted. Your objective should be 100% participation. Continue to emphasize the importance of and the company’s commitment to employee engagement. Continue to express how the survey will impact that engagement.
Re-frame the results. The results warrant careful attention: reading and reviewing. Re-frame them for easy communication with managers/supervisors. Present the results in specific, actionable format to the managers and supervisors.
Allow managers to construct action items for their teams. Managers have received clear communication of the company’s commitment to greater employee engagement. Armed with the survey results in action language, they can develop action items for their employees. This means ownership.
Communicate actions. Frequently and openly communicate the successes and difficulties encountered by specific teams and by the company in applying survey action results. Two validations are vital. First, that the survey was meaningful, which implementing specific actions validates. Second, that the participants’ input was accurate (and accurately interpreted) which success from those actions validates.
Repeat. With as little change in the content and focus of your survey as possible, repeat it on an annual or bi-annual basis. If engagement has meaning, its measurement on a regular basis has meaning also.
You may wish to review this account of Towers Watson’s work with DirectTV.