Congratulations! Your company has just completed its Employee Engagement Survey initiative. The survey results are in—now what do you do?
The value of engaged employees seems to be accepted. There is plenty of research to show the benefit of an engaged workplace or better yet, becoming a “Great Place to Work.” So, why can’t more organizations cross the chasm between action planning and engaged employees to build a culture of engagement? A culture where employees are applying their skill with will (emotional commitment an employee has to the organization and its goals, resulting in the use of discretionary effort*) and where employees are appropriately recognized and rewarded for their contributions? What causes the logjam and how do we break through?
Some of the more widely noted benefits of employee engagement directly correlate to: Service, Sales, Quality, Safety, Retention, Profit, and Total Shareholder Returns. Kevin Kruse*, author of Employee Engagement 2.0, compiled a list of more than 28 research studies highlighting the value of engaged employees. A couple of noteworthy stats include:
- In companies where 60 to 70 percent of employees were engaged, average total shareholder’s return (TSR) stood at 24.2 percent; in companies with only 49 to 60 percent of their employees engaged, TSR fell to 9.1 percent; companies with engagement below 25 percent suffered negative TSR. (Source: Employee engagement at double-digit growth companies, Hewitt Research Brief)
- A study of 23,910 business units compared top quartile and bottom quartile engagement scores and found that those in the top quartile averaged 12% higher profitability. (Source: Gallup Q12 Meta-Analysis, Gallup)
It appears that despite acceptance of the “engagement facts,” most organizations fail to create laser focused follow through and completion once the data is in and results have been discussed. In short, it’s the “So what?” to Action Planning meetings that is the cause of the logjam. After having led hundreds of employees through post-engagement survey Action Planning meetings with the goal of becoming a Great Place to Work, real employee engagement boils down to 5 straightforward steps:
1) Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say
Leaders must be clear about their intentions and desires. Communicating the purpose of the interest in employee engagement for your specific organization is critical for employees. Employees must understand what compels the leaders first and foremost. And, if the leaders can’t translate their vision into strategy with authenticity, becoming real and genuine for employees, any other actions will crumble.
2) Move From Platitudes to Specific Behaviors
Many employees and leaders have the tendency to solve problems with nebulous platitudes, euphemisms and catch phrases. What’s missing is clarity and specificity. One of my favorite examples of this comes from when a team was discussing their Engagement Survey results and brainstorming solutions that could make a better place to the work for their team. Two recommendations were: 1. “Be professional” and 2. “Be respectful”.
As the meeting facilitator, I said, “Oh, I know what you mean. Everyone should wear a suit to work. That’s professional. Right?” Needless, to say in the manufacturing environment, this was not the desire. Turns out, the behaviors the individual actually wanted to see, that were clouded in the phrases, “Be Professional and Be Respectful” were: “Everyone needs to smile. Managers should use a tone of voice that isn’t condescending. We should respect each other’s time, by starting meetings on time.” Obviously, the labels of Respect and Professionalism—didn’t identify the behaviors that needed to be present. When these phrases come up in your organization, ask for an example of the desired behavior, instead of accepting the label.
3) Capture and Disseminate Stories
Many organizations are filled with consistent and frequent examples of engagement, even if the company as a whole may not have stellar engagement survey results. If the Corporate Communications department, Leadership Team, HR organization or any other group can identify and share those success stories across the organization, then things become personal and real. Share these on your Intranet, Newsletter, Podcasts, Videos, Emails—whatever your preferred company communication method. One story which impacted me comes from a team who was discussing recognition during their Action Planning session. It quickly became clear that instituting a formal “Employee of the Month” program was unnecessary because a grass roots recognition effort was already in place. Once word got out amongst the team that an employee had done a good job or had been successful, the employee’s workspace became covered with sticky notes of positivity and acknowledgement, which were spontaneously created by team members. The manager had no idea this was occurring.
4) Take a Temperature Check
Most companies use sophisticated Employee Satisfaction or Engagement Survey tools. These instruments require a significant investment of dollars and people to administer and analyze the data. During the off years or quarters to the global survey, consider a 5 question Pulse Survey that could easily be administered through Survey Monkey or other free online survey. Be certain to ask if follow up from the survey is occurring.
5) Replicate and Repeat
To form any new habit, behavior or change, repetition is required. So, the same goes for cracking the code of Employee Engagement—replicate and repeat the above recommendations. The result for leaders and employees will be consistent and sustained behaviors which will show up as engagement.
Do you have a story of effective action on engagement surveys or could your organization breakthrough the logjam with these 5 steps? We would love to hear about your experience!