Employee engagement matters. Can we agree on that? Ok, so why is your organization not measuring it? Is it, that management is too afraid of the results? Except for ignorance, I do not know other reasons, do you? But boy is that silly! That’s all the more astonishing, as you can criticize modern management practice for much, but not for not being analytical, measuring and evaluating enough. So how on earth do most organizations neglect to measure how their arguably most important resource is utilized, the worker itself?
I can’t see any other explanation then just blank denial of reality. This fear of managers to get to know what is really going on invariably leads to:
- the existence of a blind spot of a managers perception at a critical point
- an inability to learn and improve, and
- a severe economic underperformance.
If you know any other reason except ignorance or fear, dear reader, let me know. Fear of results, fear of feedback, fear of transparency, fear of impotence to do something with the results, fear of sticking one head’s out and being attacked by the rest of the organization for being seen to “weak on the worker.”
Yet I dare say that in 90% or more of organizations, employee engagement is not measured in any meaningful way. And if I say meaningful, I mean actionable. In some corporations, there is the odd HR survey, which results are never seen except at senior management level and with actions that rarely go farther than more investment in “one size fits all” team building, work-life balance initiatives, or shallow employer branding exercises. Shallow and disingenuous actions at best which only achieve one result: These shallow, token actions based on pointless surveys make workers cynical over time.
It takes guts to face reality. And it takes an even greater manager to devise actions that improve things. The timid or impotent manager should stay away from measuring employee engagement. Let me explain.
Are you sure you can sustain an opportunity-rich work environment?
Motivation is the reason for people’s actions, desires, and needs. A strong motivation is a prerequisite for people to be highly engaged. Thousands of books have been written about motivation, as it is a complex, important and even crucial feature of work and life.
There is a critical caveat, which degrades the effectiveness of all motivational exercises drastically. It’s all good and well to be motivated, but all the motivation in the world is of no use if you do not have the chance to act on it. The Count of Monte Christo, in Alexandre Dumas novel, might have been very motivated to take revenge, alas his motivation was not actionable until he got out of his prison cell.
Motivated employees face the same problem. They might arrive at the office all fired up after a highly energizing seminar or workshop. But all their motivation is worth nothing if they are not allowed to act on it.
Motivation plus action equals engagement. Motivation is worth nothing if not connected to action. Motivation itself is useless if a person does not have the opportunity to act on the motivation.
A managers job is to supply opportunities to engage. If a manager does not feel she or he can do that, measuring engagement is not needed at all. It is a waste of money which only produces cynicism. Being a gutsy, daring manager only does damage if not backed up by competence – and a sufficient mandate to do things differently.
The IEQ – a practical way to measure engagement
The “Inclusion and Engagement Quotient” (IEQ) has been proposed by Henri Lipmanovic and Keith Candles in their 2014 book “Liberating Structures.” While there are many ways and surveys to measure engagement, this survey has some advantages:
- It is simple & efficient: Just 15 questions to ask
- It is centered on engagement in meetings, not on who people feel about their jobs
- Because of this focus on meetings, it is easily actionable
Besides that, it is aptly named IEQ, a combination of IQ (Intelligence Quotient) and EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient), two popular ways of thinking about individual resourcefulness. It’s just a name, I know, but it is catchy.
The IEQ is based on a standard list of questions that are to be answered in an anonymous survey, for example online via SurveyMonkey or any other polling tool. Each question is given with an ordinal ranking from 1 (never) to 10 (Always). Here is the list of questions:
The result of this survey can be pictured in a diagram depicting the cumulative percentage of people who are engaged (Y-Axis) and the one to ten rating level (X-Axis). For a typical low engagement company the curve would look like this:
The total level of engagement of the surveyed group of people is the integral beyond the curve, which can be expressed as a percentage of the total space beneath the curve should all employees been fully engaged at level 10. A low engagement organization might have an engagement level of 20%, while a highly engaged one might be at 80%.
But there are significant downsides of the IEQ:
- It lacks academic foundations. Basically, it has been created by its authors with the intention to show the potential that good meetings have over traditional ones
- It is just about meetings, not about individual job conditions, the relationship to a manager or peers, or general organizational conditions
- Each question is quite long and requires some concentrated reading
These are significant shortcomings Let’s contrast the IEQ to the Gallup Q12 survey, the “gold standard” of engagement surveys.
Alternative: Gallup’s Employee Engagement Study
Gallup, after “30 years of in-depth research involving more than 17 million employees” has settled on 12 questions to get to the heart of employee engagement:
1. I know what is expected of me at work.
2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
5. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
6. There is someone at work who encourages my development.
7. At work, my opinions seem to count.
8. The mission or purpose of my organization makes me feel my job is important.
9. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
10. I have a best friend at work.
11. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
12. This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.
Like the IEQ survey, all questions are ranked on an ordinal scale and are to be answered anonymously. This, the “Q12 Survey” can be bought as a service online, directly from Gallup. The tool delivers all the neat looking graphics to illustrate the result.
The downside of the Gallup study is that it is not very actionable. Now, Gallup would argue with that. As any fine consulting company, they have a list of proposed actions in store, for each and every point. But the thing is, it is the very holistic nature of the Gallup study that restricts its usability at work level. It gives a very good holistic view, but at the expense of specific insights into any of those categories. In other words: It serves the needs for information of the board better than the needs of the frontline manager.
Actionable vs. Holistic Survey: The Case for the IEQ
Therefore, if you are a first line manager, I suggest trying the IEQ. Its limited focus on the way the individual feels about her or his role in meetings delivers actionable results. Moreover, Meetings are where people discuss every important issue of whats going on in an organization. New, improved forms of running meetings, that result in more enagaged co-workers are a catalyst for improvement in every other field.
There are lots of other employee engagement surveys out there, provided by companies or academic institutions. To sum up, the points that I like to make is:
- Measure employee engagement. There is no excuse to neglect this
- If your company does not allow you to measure engagement or there is no chance of turning insight into action: Consider the odds of these impediments vanishing in the near future. If the odds are bad, consider quitting, as the work environment may be toxic.
- Use a survey that delivers actionable results. There is no point in measuring anything if learning is not followed up by actions
So do not be a wimp. Face up reality and measure employee engagement and do something meaningful with the results.
It is true that people can be actively engaged no matter if engagement is measured or not. But it certainly casts no good light on an organization if it turns a blind eye to the question of employee engagement.
This is what I think. What do you think?
- A discussion about the difference between Employee Engagement and Motivation
- IEQ: Henri Lipamanovic & Keith Candles “The surprising power of liberating Structures: Simple Rules to unleash a culture of innovation”, 2014, p. 37ff.
- Gallup Q12 Survey
- Featured image is from “True Grit”, an amazing film by Joel and Ethan Cohen.