It’s been a year. Time once again to roll out the organisational engagement levels survey. All the Managers action-planned following last year’s survey… surely there’s been an improvement? Time to call the teams together and prepare them properly for the questions they’ll be answering… their interpretations of the questions varied widely last time… Did you notice the collective eye-roll from the staff? Wonder why the energy just dissipated from the room?
A common problem faced by many organisations when testing the “engagement” of their staff is that 1.) their surveys focus primarily on lag indicators, with little attention paid to the drivers of the engagement levels; and 2.) too often the surveys are centred more around the success of the business and management, than those the survey is supposed to be focussed on. It is little wonder that many staff look upon the surveying of their engagement with cynicism, and sometimes downright disdain.
If that sounds familiar, ask yourself… As a Business Owner, Manager or Leader, why are you really testing the engagement of your staff?… What questions are you asking?… And are you using the engagement levels of your staff as a key measure of your own success?
Let’s look at the behaviours exhibited by those who are truly engaged. Commitment, Enthusiasm, Dedication, Perseverance, Allegiance, Loyalty, Advocacy. In a business context, these behaviours are the holy grail, but it is also important to recognise that they are simply outcomes of a far more critical element. Whilst many engagement surveys ask questions about all of those behaviours, most of the questions only address the outcome, and tend to sound like, “How likely are you to stay in your current role?”, “how likely are you to recommend this company to your friends or social network?”, “how effectively have the senior leaders communicated”, “how well is under-performance managed in this organisation?”. The answers to these questions do not provide a clear indication of engagement, as there are more critical personal drivers influencing these answers, that if not understood, can lead to false-positives, false-negatives and misinterpreted engagement results.
“…People will ride out the storms and they will give more of themselves than they or you can imagine, when they can truly see their identity in the results delivered…”
An example of this can be found in the answers provided to the question, “How likely are you to stay in your current role?”. In the absence of other critical context, results indicating that staff intend only to stay a short time could indicate that staff are disengaged… but it could also indicate that staff are in fact perfectly engaged, but have a career path, supported by the development offered to them by their current leader or employer, that sees them moving on to a new challenge. This is not necessarily a negative result. It could also indicate that whilst the employees are happy and engaged, the nature or intensity of the work being performed is more suited to shorter stints before the employee needs to move on and refresh. Misinterpretation of these results can lead to organisations placing greater effort into fruitless retention activities that could be directed elsewhere.
On the flip side, results indicating that staff intend to stay for long periods may in fact indicate engagement… but could also be masking fear, lack of development opportunities, or personal circumstances that leave employees desperate for certainty and continuity of employment. Employees facing these challenges don’t need to be engaged to respond this way. The point is, many engagement surveys and the subsequent action planning sessions that follow, stop short of providing insights into the true drivers of these responses, and as such, employees often leave the engagement survey process feeling sceptical about the use of the information, and less engaged than when they began.
Reflect for a moment on the other aspects of your life that you are truly engaged with… Regardless of whether these are related to sporting, community involvement, volunteering or personal challenges, true engagement is the by-product of the “identity” you have with that particular pursuit or activity. Your identity with an activity is what keeps you returning day after day, week after week. It’s what keeps you motivated to put the effort in when things are difficult. It’s the reason you refer your friends, and it’s the reason that your personal pride in the result does not allow a substandard result. Chances are, you’ve never actually qualified, let alone quantified, your level of ‘engagement’ in these pursuits… but if asked, you will be able to articulate with clarity what it means to you personally, why you care enough to deliver the best result, and how you as a human are a better, more fulfilled person for giving that activity everything you have.
Engagement in a professional workplace is no different. It is the outcome of a team or individual that has an identity and a sense of belonging, can truly relate to their work, can relate to their peers and can relate to the vision of what their value is contributing to.
Creating and fostering identity is however, not a once a year activity. Every day, the entire leadership team must create an environment where your people can relate to how the result is to be achieved, provide each person with a clear view of how their input and effort makes a difference, how their skills are best utilised, how their contribution is valued and understood, how they will be supported, and how their personal development will be enhanced through their work.
These are the aspects that “Organisational Identity Assessments” focus on and are far superior to traditional engagement surveys. These assessments survey the true drivers of human behaviour, provide insight into the values and identity your people aspire to, and ensure that the action planning that is driven from the assessment results is truly focussed on improving the quality of each staff member’s experience. The resulting engagement benefits to the organisation follow naturally… and as an added benefit, you no longer have to manufacture engagement.
People will ride out the storms and they will give more of themselves than they or you can imagine, to ensure the ship stays afloat, when they can truly see their identity in the results delivered.