Whenever I have started a home improvement project, checking my plans and measurements before I purchased materials or started the project, and as I continued with each step of the project was the difference between success and failure, being at budget or over budget, or one trip to Lowes versus five trips to Lowes. My father in-law, Bill, helped me with many of the home improvement projects I took on. He always planned everything out to the tiniest detail and checked his plan multiple times. He made certain to analyze what he needed to do first, second and then third; and then he would revisit the plan and revise his efforts along the way. Sometimes I was impatient with the process, but it was a good process. Bill always would say, “Measure Twice, Cut Once.” What he was really saying was knowing what you want to do and doing it are two very different things. I can have all of the information in front of me and execute my actions poorly. However, if I take the time to analyze all of the information in an effective manner than I will most likely be successful. Managing an Employee Engagement survey is very much the same. However, it is astonishing to me how often organizations plow through actions steps after the data comes back without even looking back. When organizations utilize an organizational or engagement survey, most of the effort is spent on collecting data, and the process itself can take on a life of its own.
Once the data is collected, organizations race to do something with it. The old adage, “if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it” is true. However, we must make sure we are managing the right things. Most efforts to measure Employee Engagement are focused on surveys that show ratings results provided by the employees. Organizations take a cue from those results and set action plans. Typically, organizations look at the items on the survey that were rated the highest and the lowest, and focus on improving the scores that were low and marketing the ones that were rated more highly. There are times when organizations become paralyzed by all of the data they are provided and cannot make sense of it because there are overwhelmed by too much information. Sometimes a consultant will provide intuitive advice, based on experience. We must then trust that the consultant is right based more on intuition than on anything else. Please do not misunderstand what I am saying, intuition has its place, but if you have just invested significant time and energy on a survey project collecting data, then we should be able to truly interpret the data and gain some inherent wisdom from that data.
What do we really know when we get back the results? How do we know we are working on the right initiatives? Which efforts will lead to real impact? Unfortunately, most organizations cannot answer these questions.