Two studies released in 2013 on employee engagement levels delivered a big jolt. Both indicated that nearly half of the work force is detached or not engaged.
I only felt better when I reviewed some other countries' results, which were lower than the US, but I didn't feel better for long.
Value of Engagement Surveys
The recent engagement scores (Towers Watson Global Workforce Study and State of the American Workplace Gallup Poll) are not materially worse than two years ago, Nonetheless, they are scary. Setting aside the obvious, there is a massive cost associated with productivity loss of distracted or detached employees. The problem is intensifying (with rising cost of labor), and we can better control it.
To me, effectively measuring employee engagement means holding frequent and consistent dialogues with all company colleagues - that are relevant, timely, meaningful and quantifiable.
Annual or bi-annual surveys work well for gauging the impact of health plans, or even 360-degree feedback. But if we want to understand how our employees are making it through the myriad of leadership changes, business process revisions and policy updates that we implement during the course of a year, does a survey or two cut the mustard? By the time we tally the results, the productivity disrupters are well in play, or played out, in some cases.
How Businesses Measure Employee Engagement
I've asked hundreds of companies about employee engagement in 2013. The dominant responses are that surveys are conducted once or twice per annum. And everyone agrees we can do much better at understanding the impact of our continuous improvement efforts, in tandem with measuring employee engagement levels. Towers Watson refers to this dilemma as "21st century businesses with 20th century practices and programs."
Could we take the same care with our employees that we have taken with our customers? Meaning - frequent and meaningful dialogues on subjects that are of high impact to the enterprise, to specific business units, and to them personally? We very successfully retrieve and gauge customer views via a host of experience measurements (net promoter, IVR and email surveys, etc.) Can we raise the bar on the employee side?
Small Steps, Big Payoff
- Brief, structured on line dialogues, at the end of each work week or minimum, twice per month
- Three to five questions (maximum) some or all open ended
- Varied, timely relevant topics representing the scope of the job and critical performance support
- How was your workweek?
- What was your experience with the new software application that was rolled out?
- What did your customers have to say about abc product?
- Did you touch base with your manager this week?
- Is it time for us to have a career development discussion?
Remote employees absolutely need the dialogue. Office-based employees would be better heard. And businesses can quickly gauge and respond to productivity disrupters, 21st century-style.
More on this topic at the 2014 Remote Working Summit, February 4-5, Dallas.