Most organizations spend time and money collecting employee engagement data each year. In some cases, organizations collect data on a quarterly, or even a monthly, basis. So the natural question is, “What are we getting for that investment?” The unfortunate answer for many organizations is very little. I am making the argument that many of the surveys and tools utilized to measure Employee Engagement are flawed in their design and doomed to failure before they start. Even among the tools that do work, many are only helpful for a couple of years before a company plateaus or even falls backward without any wisdom for turning the results around.
For years we have heard “It’s the manager, Stupid.” I have often wondered why the manager/employee relationship has been highlighted as the reason for employee engagement issues. Well I am here to say, “It’s not just the manager stupid! It’s the manager and a host of other things.” Much of the survey design and development being utilized today starts with a premise or design that limits success—the hard focus on the manager being just one of them. Hear me out, and I will share what I mean.
There are typically two types of Employee Engagement research that people reference. The first type is multi-company research. This is research that compares the engagement levels between different organizations, usually in the same industry. However, a great deal of Employee Engagement research that has been completed has focused on studying one company in-depth. This type of research is more common because it is challenging to get permission from many companies to collect data about the organization and their employees. So, we settle on collecting data from one organization. We call this Single Company Research and much of this research has focused on the retail industry because it is easier to show bottom-line results when we compare financial performance across stores. So far, single company approaches sound good, but let’s takes a further look at how this approach plays out. If we were to study one chain, let’s say Starbucks for example, and compared each Starbucks unit or store with another, what would really be different? Very little would differ between stores; Compensation model, not really; Benefits No; Store Design Negligible. The main difference between stores would be the manager of the Starbucks.
Now, if you looked at Starbucks and compared them with another organization, say Dunkin Donuts, we would see very different story. A number of areas would differ such as:
- Senior Leadership
- Goal Setting
- Work Environment
- Store Design
- Knowledge Management
- Selection and On-boarding
- Communication Mechanisms
Clearly, the manager or direct supervisor is an important factor in the employee engagement equation. The direct supervisor, however, is not the entire footprint of employee engagement.