Engagement Surveys: A little less data, a little more insight please

You are finished with your employee engagement survey.  All of the data is collected and reports are run.  Now what?

You are going to want to work on what will have the most impact over the next year? There are is only one way to achieve this goal. Connect your engagement factors to performance indicators such as revenue, profitability, productivity, and turnover. Some organizations turn to consulting firms like ours that have already facilitated this process in a generic manner across many data points, and others want to create a more targeted correlation based on their business. Obviously, the second and more pinpointed way to determine impact, a validation study, is more expensive. Either way, this is a very different avenue from choosing items based on whether they were rated low versus rated high. We break down engagement indicators into four key categories.

Top Targets (Low Rating, High Impact)

The items in this category represent what an organization will want to focus on during the next period; usually a year. These are items that receive low ratings from employees in a survey and also have the greatest impact on issues such as productivity, retention, and organizational results. Working on these particular issues will not only have the greatest impact on an organization’s employee engagement results, but it will also have the maximum impact on the organization’s success.

High Priorities (High Rating, High Impact)

These items are important to leverage or maintain and should be an organization’s next focus. These items received high ratings and also have significant impact on the organization’s success. Consider these items strengths that are working to the organization’s advantage. If these items fall backward in ratings, performance of the organization will suffer.

Average Priorities (Low Rating, Low Impact)

These items reflect low ratings and low impact. Essentially, they are organizational weaknesses that have little impact on the performance of an organization. These items typically will not influence productivity or retention a great deal. However, any item(s) rated low should be reviewed to determine if there is a pattern in the ratings that tells a story, or there is a need to shore up a real weakness because it is getting in the way.

Low Priorities (High Rating, Low Impact)

The items reflect strengths of an organization, because they are rated highly by employees on a survey, but they typically have little impact on issues like productivity, retention, and organizational results. While we try not to fall backward on these types of items, the impact of falling backward would most likely be negligible. We would not recommend an organization spend its time focusing in this area.

When we work with clients, there are times we need to steer them away from some of the items rated low because we know from our research that working on those items will not produce the results that addressing another item will.

Are you working on the right stuff?


Employee Engagement Surveys…Junk?

Survey PictureBack in the 90’s employee engagement surveys became the rage.  Of course many of the surveys and the data were being collected in the 80’s.  One of the seminal studies was made famous by the Harvard Business Review demonstrating a connection between employee satisfaction and revenue/customer purchasing.  It was about Sears in their heyday.

While US organizations spend over $700 million attempting to strengthen employee engagement, most of it is spent on surveys that do not work and not on efforts that do.

The Journal for Quality and Participation says that in many cases you are wasting your money. “The dirty little secret of employee engagement surveys is that they’re largely junk science.”

There are a number of problems with these surveys.

  • The models were born in the 80’s and people still think they are relevant.
  • Benchmark data can lead you astray by comparing your organization to averages and organizations that are either not relevant or face different challenges.
  • Consulting firms provide recommendations that for problems that do not exist or have little impact.
  • Action planning, the way it is handled, does not promote engagement principles.
  • Organizations spend so much getting a picture of what their organization looks like from the survey, they invest little in actually impacting engagement.
  • Survey companies have difficultly offering practical advice or understanding their client’s business.

Why your engagement process may be leading you astray…

Economics is a social science that analyzes all aspects of our society.  However, as complicated and as scientific as it is, economic studies are rarely accurate.  Why?  Well one reason is traditional economics are based on rational factors and there are usually irrational factors at work.

The study of irrational factors and their patterns in economics has been coined “Behavioral Economics.”  You might be asking… “What does this has to do with employee engagement surveys, customer engagement surveys or focus groups?”  Simple…what people say and what they do are often different.  And the circumstances and consequences surrounding these efforts have an impact on how people behave and respond.   What this means is that the interpretation of your results and the questions you are asking may not be very helpful.

Here are some quick tips to help you in your efforts:

  1. Don’t try so hard to understand people’s thinking or the reasons for their behavior.  The data probably won’t tell you all of that.  This is even tricky for professionals in the business.
  2. Try to use items or questions that are quantifiable.
  3. Use scales that have more than 5 levels because generally people have an aversion to extremes.
  4. Utilize scales that are specific such as “2 times a quarter.”

10 Mistakes in Employee Engagement Surveys

By Leigh Page as seen in Beckers

Brad Federman, president of Performancepoint LLC, lists 10 mistakes healthcare organizations make when conducting employee engagement surveys.

1. Conducting an in-house survey. Engagement surveys that are carried out internally tend to show sterling results because respondents know the employer is watching. It’s the “Big Brother” syndrome, Mr. Federman says. “People rate the organization well because they know the company has access to their ratings. If you want insights and to strengthen your organization do yourself a favor and use a third party.”

2. Putting the onus on managers. In engagement surveys, “the HR community has fixated on the manager,” Mr. Federman says. But when all responsibility is put on managers, no one else wants to share any of it. “We simply give permission to our employees to play victim,” Mr. Federman says. “Much of the compelling research says that colleagues have a great deal of influence on engagement. It is a shared responsibility.”

3. Questions that spread discontent. “Poor survey design is often a source of problems,” Mr. Federman says. For example, some questions will always be answered in the negative and some will actually spread dissatisfaction. Also questions that are irrelevant to most people will prompt many employees to stop participating. “Bias toward a particular aspect, such as the direct supervisor, can mask larger issues and impede employee engagement,” he says.

4. Findings that aren’t actionable. The survey may have been shortened to promote participation and the questions on it may seem intriguing, but no one knows what to do with the survey results. In these cases, “some of the questions turn out to be impractical or at least difficult to follow up on,” Mr. Federman says.

5. Using the goals of others. When an engagement effort aims for the norm, it is just aspiring to be average. An organization can aim higher with someone else’s benchmark, but that goal may have little to do with your organization. “Organizations can become too invested and even distracted by [benchmarks],” Mr. Federman says. “The best benchmark is knowing where you are and where you want to be.”

6. No follow-up on findings. Some engagement efforts can be all data and no action. “So much attention gets paid to creating a survey and collecting the data,” Mr. Federman says. Afterwards, however, “there was no action in the action planning,” he says. Employees were not made aware of the results and had no opportunity to discuss them with leadership.

7. Hosting just one event. Employee engagement may simply consist of a single event, perhaps following up on the arrival of a new CEO or a recent financial turnaround. But such one-time events can be worse than having no event at all, because they raise employee expectations and don’t follow through, which damages morale. “In some cases, outright backlash and animosity will occur,” Mr. Federman says. To be effective, keep the project going and have a specific champion behind it.

8. Skirting transparency. In some cases, leadership may not want to share survey results displaying problems. “Do we have to share that information?” executives may ask. “What if we only communicate our strengths and our top goals?” Such an approach always sows employees’ mistrust. “They already know what the problems are,” Mr. Federman says. “They are just waiting to see if you do. More importantly, they are waiting to see if you are willing to admit what they are.” Transparency trumps concealment every time.

9. Looking for the quick fix. “Too many organizations look at employee engagement as a reactive process,” Mr. Federman says. “Find the problem and fix it so the numbers go up.” But it’s usually not that simple. Trying to fix a problem often creates a new one or may even reinforce the original one. “Try to analyze the problem, understand where it started, and why it grew over time,” he says. “You may find out that you have something entirely different to work on.”

10. Not training managers. Managers may lack the tools to dig into problems unearthed in the surveys. “How can we get them to focus on engagement throughout the year?” Mr. Federman asks. The answer is to give them tools, processes and training outside of the survey and action planning.

Learn more about Performancepoint LLC.

To see original article click here

All For One And One For All Engagement

According to a recent Hewitt study only 16 percent of those companies using engagement surveys see positive results. That means 84 percent, a striking majority, are wasting time, resources and money in their efforts. Engagement cannot be about a snapshot in time shown in survey results. Engagement is larger than a manager. Engagement is about your culture — a shared culture that is built and represented by everyone.

Most studies agree that the engagement level of employees has dropped over the last 5 to 10 years. Think about how much money has been spent on engagement initiatives such as engagement surveys, survey action planning and leadership training that did not produce lasting results. Think about the lost productivity, revenues and profits that result from unmotivated employees.

Many companies have found the results of their employee engagement efforts level off in a fairly short time or, worse, they lose ground. In fact, the very efforts many companies initiate seem to cause more damage than good. Why? Because they approach engagement as a managerial responsibility when in reality, to be most effective, it must be a shared responsibility of all employees. Engagement is not a project or event; it is about your culture.

When you create a culture of engaged, satisfied employees, you can increase loyalty and really bring out the best in each individual. Just as low morale touches every part of your business’s productivity, engaged employees will be your ticket to driving revenue growth, going after increased profits and improving customer service.

How do we make engagement everyone’s responsibility?

  1. Stop making engagement solely the manager’s responsibility. When a company places the responsibility for engagement mainly on the shoulders of direct supervisors they unwittingly create the demise of their efforts over time. What do quality efforts, customer service efforts, and branding strategies all have in common? They involve the entire company. Each person in each department affects all three of those efforts. The same holds true for engagement.All too often companies send a message (unintentionally but powerfully all the same) that the individual associate has no control, influence, or even effect on their own engagement or the engagement of others. When we develop values for our organizations we ask each individual to uphold those values. It is time we make the same commitment to engagement. Everyone has to have ownership and responsibility for their own level of engagement.
  2. Success is not found in an HR program. Employee engagement, if handled appropriately, has an enormous impact on the business. CEOs, presidents, and C-Level executives get involved in the brand, the numbers and the deals, but unfortunately, not enough of these executives get as deeply involved with their people. And they usually leave the employee engagement effort to the good folks in HR.It is sad to see some leaders so out of touch they must resort to going undercover on a television show to get to know their people and their own company. Many executives are too isolated and forget the reason the business they help run is successful—their people. If you think that’s not the case, go to the headquarters of many large companies and see where the executive team is located. Often they have separate floors, private entrances, their own washrooms, separate eating facilities and some even have separate buildings. For many executives, meeting employees and customers is a carefully orchestrated event. Sadly many executives do not understand that employee engagement is a business issue first and it starts at the top.

  3. Focus on the whole person. Employees and managers are not psychiatrists, but we need to understand that our employees suffer from stress, burnout, fear, problems outside of work, office politics and many other challenges. How these challenges are dealt with strengthens, or hinders, our ability to create relationships that have impact and can make the difference between success and failure. We need to become concerned with why associates become irritable, impatient, lack time for reflection or strategic thinking, or send text and email messages while having conversations. We can only engage if we are present, and we are only present when we focus on the whole person.
  4. Promote self efficacy. Self efficacy is the belief that you are capable of performing and attaining certain goals. It is the confidence that you have the capacity to produce certain results or a desired effect.What if our employees felt they had the influence, competence, and ability to achieve their work goals, realize their talents and passions, develop their career, and live a more productive and happy life? If their employer helped them cultivate just a few of those items, do you think they would be more productive? Would they stay with their employer longer?

    Part of our focus at work should be learning about our colleagues’ talents and passions, building each other up, and creating bridges of support in our organizational community. This is even truer today with the availability of social networking and collaborative applications. Fostering confidence and the ability to see the opportunities we have, even during times of turmoil, is what sets us apart individually and collectively.

Making engagement everyone’s responsibility does not happen in the classroom, on a certain day, in a survey or in a board room. Making engagement everyone’s responsibility happens everywhere and all of the time. For employee engagement initiatives to be effective and long lasting they must be woven into the strategy of a company, part of the living culture, discussed in the hallways, and in team meetings, rallies, and huddles. They must be part of the customer strategy and woven into how relationships are built with customers.

Our challenge is to be in the group that realizes significant results from engagement efforts—in the 16 percent, not the 84 percent. One of the prime ways to do that is to make engagement everyone’s responsibility.

“Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone’s task is unique as his specific opportunity to implement it,” said Viktor E. Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning.

If everyone’s task is unique then everyone must play a role in their own engagement.

Original post found at:  Workplace Safety and HR

Engagement Surveys Are Like Home Improvement Projects

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.

Adapted from Employee Engagement: A Roadmap for Creating Profits, Optimizing Performance, and Increasing Loyalty