Employee Engagement Surveys: The Secret Sauce of Successful Businesses
By: Bob Kelleher, author of LOUDER THAN WORDS: 10 Practical Employee Engagement Steps That Drive Results
Listen up leaders -- I don’t think you need to care about satisfying your employees. Frankly, it isn’t an employer’s responsibility to satisfy employees.
Now, if I haven’t lost you entirely, I do believe that employee satisfaction can be an outcome of a great company culture, but it shouldn’t be your goal.
Let’s face it, you can always throw money or offer perks to boost employee satisfaction levels. However, the last thing any employer wants or needs is a satisfied but underperforming employee, or satisfied employees working in a business that is underperforming.
It’s about Employee Engagement!
I define engagement as “the unlocking of employee potential to drive high employee performance.” According to Gallup, companies with highly engaged employees have 3.9 times the earnings per share (EPS) growth rate compared to organizations with low engagement scores. This link between company performance and your employees’ potential will help drive the performance of your employees and business.
Companies need to focus efforts on building a mutual commitment between employee and employer -- a commitment that is the foundation of employee engagement. Only when this foundation is in place will firms experience the secret sauce of a high performing business -- the discretionary effort of employees.
Are your Employees Engaged?
Recent research by the Corporate Leadership Council is staggering: only 5.9% of surveyed employees are giving their employers high levels of discretionary effort. Wow! Are your employees highly engaged? Are you capturing their discretionary effort? How would you know? As we slowly recover from this deep recession, some enlightened companies are beginning to ask their employees “what do you think?” as they conduct employee engagement surveys.
Remember that employee engagement surveys measure engagement -- not satisfaction. I suggest that organizations conduct an employee engagement survey sooner rather than later to gauge their organizational pulse. Why? Because studies show that we’re heading into a high period of employee turnover. This has spawned the era of the “disengaged but staying put” within our ranks.
The Magnificent Seven Lessons of Employee Engagement Surveys
Lesson #1: Get buy-in. Do not conduct a survey unless you’re convinced your leadership team is committed to listening and acting on feedback. If you ask employees what they think and then do nothing with the results, you will foster cynicism and skepticism with your employees. In fact, you’ll be worse off than if you didn’t conduct a survey in the first place.
Lesson #2: Partner with a professional. You want the ability to benchmark your results with other companies in your industry; most survey providers offer both valuable benchmark data and confidentiality.
Lesson #3: Set the stage. If you’re conducting a follow-up survey, I strongly suggest you promote specific actions, successes and progress since the last survey. Of course, if you have a vibrant and effective communications plan since your last survey, you most likely would have been doing this throughout the months since your survey! This communication should play a key part of your overall survey communication plan, led by your best internal communicators. View this exercise as a terrific company branding opportunity -- and the key to capturing higher levels of participation.
Lesson #4: Establish a cross-sectional committee. This group will review survey results and make recommendations to management. The task team should include an equal mix of leaders and respected representatives from your employee base. This diverse team will reinforce an engaged culture.
The committee will evaluate survey results and prioritize recommendations to the leadership team. Consider keeping this task team together to help guide and monitor progress of key survey initiatives.
Lesson #5: Act locally. Establish a cross-sectional sub-committee to review local results (departmental, business unit, functional, etc.) and appoint related champions. Your survey results will identify some areas of your business that score significantly better or worse than the company average; follow up with an analysis at the local level and establish local action plans.
Lesson #6: Keep it simple and execute flawlessly. The tendency after a survey is to overpromise and under deliver. Although born of great intentions, you run the risk of creating a skeptical work culture. To circumvent this, implement a rigorous review process that includes an itemized budget to fund priorities.
Remember, a detailed engagement action plan will require organizational investments. In my experience, I’ve often seen leaders who were reluctant to endorse a survey early on; once the survey launches, they are eager to change the company culture overnight.
An action plan that is too ambitious will create organizational fatigue. Organizational follow up and follow through are key to successful implementation -- and key to how your employees will judge your survey efforts.
Lesson #7: Spend less up front -- implement more. Invest less in your technology vendor and more in post-survey action planning; it’s more important to concentrate on the interpretation, action plan, follow through, communication and branding.
Don’t spend a lot on survey bells and whistles! If it fails, it will not because of failure to collect the right data; it will be a failure to properly interpret the results, poor prioritization the lack of an action plan and follow up.
To summarize: it is vital to link employee engagement to high performance, not simply to make your employees happy (although that is often a by-product of engagement), but as an initiative to engage your employees in your business -- to help drive business success!
Bob Kelleher is a noted speaker, thought leader, and author of the just-released of LOUDER THAN WORDS: 10 Practical Employee Engagement Steps That Drive Results, which climbed to the #3 Workplace book, #5 HR book, and #12 Management book on Amazon. Bob Kelleher is also the founder and CEO of The Employee Engagement Group and consultant on the subjects of employee engagement, workforce trends, and leadership.