The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Employee
Conducting an employee engagement survey alone is likely
to lead to decreased levels of engagement
face it, we all love a good survey. We like to give our
opinion, hear about the results and find out what's really
going on. But companies planning an employee survey better be
ready for some meaningful follow-up. If you ask for an opinion
and then are seen not to act upon it, be prepared for the loss
of your followers' trust. Surveying alone might damage morale
and increase cynicism.
our latest study, we asked nearly 3,000 North American workers
the following question: What is your organization doing to
increase employee engagement? The chart below illustrates
their responses across BlessingWhite's 5 levels of engagement.
For a refresher on how we define engagement overall and these
5 levels, read our May
The Good: Survey + Action = More Engaged
half (47%) of all employees who said their organization
conducted a survey and demonstrated visible actions
at the organization or department level are fully engaged.
This finding was consistent across all regions and
organization sizes in our study. This is good news for your
organization if you invested time and money to collect data
and follow through.
The Bad: Beware the Survey Slump
of those employees who experienced a survey and saw no
follow-up, less than a quarter (24%) are engaged. This
is three percentage points worse than for employees who report
no action at all, suggesting that surveying and doing nothing
can actually decrease engagement levels. If your
organization is unable or unwilling to act on the insights
gleaned from a survey, don't go there. You may lose
you want to "take the pulse" of your workforce, consider using
less visible options: small focus groups or accessible HR
metrics (e.g., retention data and exit interviews) to identify
workforce issues you can address. And when you do
take action on survey data, make sure employees understand the
connection between your initiatives and the data. Don't assume
they'll recognize that organizational changes or your behavior
as a leader are directly in response to the feedback they gave
you in the survey.
The Ugly: Crying "Wolf!"
surveying without follow-up can backfire, there is another
sure-fire way to make a dent in your employees' engagement
levels: Pay lip service to engagement. In our study, fewer
than 2 in 10 (19%) employees who replied "a lot of talk, but
no action" are fully engaged. Nearly 1 in 3 (32%) are actually
disengaged. Managers who talk about the importance of engaged
employees or promise to act on engagement issues can severely
damage their team's contribution and satisfaction if they
focus only on results and fail to walk their talk.
An Alternative: Talk to Your People
know that acting on employee engagement findings is harder
than sending out the survey link, especially if your company
has thousands of employees in multiple locations and managers
who are stretched thin balancing competing priorities. Even
the best-intentioned managers may struggle to find time for an
"engagement task force" or executing their "action plan for
increasing team engagement."
findings suggest that you may be better off skipping the
survey entirely and encouraging managers to talk to their
people. 37% of employees whose manager had talked to them
about their engagement even though there was no apparent
organization-wide initiative are fully engaged. While that's
not as promising as organizations that survey and
act, it beats doing nothing, surveying without follow-up, or
being all talk.
approach is likely to be more cost-effective than a
large-scale survey. It also leverages what managers should
already be doing daily in their role: having conversations.
Here are a few tips on what those conversations should look
Conducting a Meaningful
taking the time to check in with an employee to ensure
that you're on the same page and are doing all that you
need to do to support them demonstrates your commitment
to his or her success. It strengthens your work
relationship, which is a key engagement driver.
This is an opportunity to:
- Learn/confirm the employee's point of view on job
satisfaction and personal success.
- Answer questions and provide clarity on what
maximum contribution looks like.
- Demonstrate your support.
- Strengthen your work relationship.
- Begin an ongoing dialogue.
is not the time to:
- Provide long-overdue performance feedback.
- Conduct a career coaching conversation.
- Share all your thoughts on what the employee
- Set a positive tone of partnership. This is not a
- Talk about the importance of the employee's job
and how it fits with the company's larger goals.
- Discuss your employee's top priorities. You may
find you have different perceptions, which can have a
negative impact on engagement.
- Ask "What support do you need from me?" and "What
kind of feedback is most useful to you?"
- Talk about ways to use the employee's talents (the
ones that this person enjoys using). Our
research indicates that "more opportunities to do what
I do best" is a common driver of satisfaction.
- Ask about job conditions — What gets in the way of
great accomplishments? What gets in the way of a great
day at work? What does the employee enjoy most?
- Discuss how you work together. The more you and
your employee know about each other's work style, the
stronger your partnership — which correlates to higher
- Agree to meet again. You can't have one
discussion and check off the box that you've addressed
your employee's engagement successfully. This
conversation lays a foundation for specific
discussions about performance, development, career
findings referenced in this article are based on the
preliminary results of BlessingWhite's latest employee
engagement study, which compares more than 2,800 North
American post-recession survey results with pre-recession
data. The full global report based on more than 10,000 survey
respondents and interviews with senior leaders will be
available in November 2010. Register at http://www.blessingwhite.com/EEE__report.asp
to receive a copy hot off the ePress in November!
more information on how BlessingWhite can help your
organization reach the next level, call 1.800.222.1349 or
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