Why a New Pair of Jeans May Be More Compelling than Employee Engagement
By Leah Clark, BlessingWhite Consultant
BlessingWhite recently conducted a mini survey to understand, “How engaging are engagement surveys?” The results were curious:
- Only 45% of individuals surveyed* are very confident they know what an engagement survey is. Given the amount of money invested in employee engagement—approximately $74.3 billion based on recent estimates by The Starr Conspiracy Intelligence Unit—the hope is that awareness would be higher.
- 50% of those asked would rather complete a survey about an online purchase than respond to their company’s engagement survey. And nearly 25% of those surveyed didn’t even know what an Employee Engagement Survey was. The average person spends 35% of their life at work, yet they’d rather take the time to answer questions about a pair of jeans or a new restaurant than share their perspective on their job.
- A mere 39% don’t think their company’s engagement survey impacts long term organizational priorities.
- If you break that group down further, results reveal that, 22% don’t think it impacts anything they do and 17% believe it’s only important at survey time but not the rest of the year.
What’s Going On?
As experts in the area of employee engagement, this information gives us pause. Is it survey overload? Is it a lack of understanding? A crisis of confidence? Perhaps it is a combination of all three. Without question, it is an opportunity to redouble efforts to support a broader understanding of employee engagement, its impact on the individual and the organization and the effect of strong engagement levels on the success of both.
Back To the Basics – The ABC’s of Engagement
While the results may cause us to scratch our heads, they are also an important reminder not to take a simple concept and overcomplicate it. Perhaps the results point to the need to go back to basics and make sure we understand the fundamentals—The ABC’s of Engagement.
Assess – BlessingWhite continues to believe in the benefit of engagement surveys. We know that in order to increase engagement, you need to understand the factors that may be negatively influencing engagement. You also need to understand what organizational strengths you want to continue to leverage. Employee engagement surveys provide insight into potential risks, areas of strength and opportunities to enhance engagement levels. Assessing provides a point of reference—a starting point for sparking broader dialogue about what satisfies each individual’s need for personal success and providing guidance to raise the level of his or her contributions to the organization. Surveys are critical, but don’t let the tail wag the dog.
Break Down – If you want everyone to commit to a culture of high engagement, they need to know what they are committing to. It’s important to deconstruct the concept of engagement and put it in simple terms—create a common, tangible definition. For us, this has always been about describing the intersection of personal satisfaction and organization contribution. Simply stated, employees want to get more out of their job personally and they also want to contribute to their organization – when both of these things happen to their fullest, we call it the X model of employee engagement.
Change – Perhaps most disturbing (but not surprising) about our mini survey was the lack of employee confidence that anything will change as a result of engagement survey results. It is in line with what we often see in organizations. It is rare for more than 15-20% to agree that “real change will come from this survey.” To prove your employees wrong, show them that the results mean something to you as leaders, not only when the reports are released, but every day of the year. Demonstrate strong follow-through and communication. Ensure that every team has the chance to participate in a discussion of team findings and action planning. Tune in to your employees’ engagement levels regularly by encouraging open dialogue. Repeatedly tie decisions and actions back to the feedback your workforce provided through the survey. Finally, look within yourself to determine if your own engagement level needs an adjustment. If your own engagement is lacking, it will be hard to motivate others. Commit to the personal change that might be required to ensure you are engaged and having more great days at work!
We know that engagement surveys alone will not impact engagement levels. The commitment must extend beyond the survey itself to clearly communicating the purpose of the survey and acting on its findings at work. Otherwise your employees will rightfully see the effort as inauthentic. In a world of survey overload, when it comes to employee engagement, do more than simply, “check the box.”
*Based on an online survey through social media of 106 people primarily in North America