Dialed-In or Tuned-Out?

Dialed-In or Tuned-Out? 7 Considerations to Make Better Sense of Employee Engagement Results

examining resultsAs I was wrapping up some project meetings this week, two division managers from different companies mentioned that their employee engagement survey results had just ‘arrived’. And the numbers didn’t look so good in some key areas – despite a number of initiatives over the past year – and that something had to be done.

As a regular exercise, this type of survey brings all sorts of emotions into play across organizations. At a minimum, there’s a ‘line of sight’ often drawn between a manager’s perceived effectiveness and engagement scores from their employees. And quite often these results will impact, either positively or negatively, annual performance reviews and compensation for leaders.

resultsWhile gathering this ‘snapshot’ of employee attitudes is definitely worthwhile, translating the results into meaningful action and longer term improvement can be challenging. Obviously, the results can’t be ignored, denied or dismissed – as was the case earlier this month when a General in the Canadian military flatly declared that the poor engagement scores of returning soldiers from Afghan training missions was inaccurate – stating “I have had zero reports of systemic or other dissatisfactions…ultimately I have heard universal satisfaction”.

As a leader in your organization, before jumping into action to address the shortfalls showing up in your survey results, you’d do well consider the following key questions:

  1. Are we equating employee happiness with employee engagement?
    Someone may be happy in their work but not necessarily fully engaged and productive. When employees truly care and engaged they go the extra distance – they use their discretionary effort to make a difference.
  2. Should we give equal weight to all of our employee feedback?
    Or should we recognize that some employees take a less optimistic perspective based on their temperament , are in naturally less satisfying roles or facing changes to their work or workplace that are bound to produce less favourable results.
  3. Are we considering what our staff in pivotal roles or functions are saying?
    Rather than consider all roles/functions of equivalent value – recognize that some have greater impact on day-to-day operations and results than others. Focus your initial attention on those key roles and functions.
  4. What are our high performing employees saying?
    You don’t want to lose these folks – how do their opinions stack up and what can you do to not only maintain, but also enhance, their workplace engagement? Their ‘voice’ should likely be given additional consideration as compared to consistently mediocre performers.
  5. analyzing chartHave we considered our company, industry and country norms when reviewing our results?
    Ratings made by employees on survey questions can systematically vary – sometimes significantly – no matter what company they work for. Having some awareness of these norms is helpful in putting the results in perspective.
  6. Are we trying to create a perfect workplace?
    That’s not realistic – things change and challenges emerge that are either internally driven or imposed externally. In addition, some ‘friction’ may indeed heighten interest, offer development opportunities and strengthen the motivation to succeed on a specific work-related challenge.
  7. Are we using our survey results to inform and improve our business?
    Focus on those aspects of the survey results that will truly make a difference to your business. At the end of the day, you want to demonstrate that employee attitude and job satisfaction are not only moving in the right direction, but that they are improving the bottom line.

Employee satisfaction surveys, used effectively, can indeed be drivers for improving employee engagement and organizational performance. But be sure to get clear on the feedback before you jump into action.

About The Author

Scott Borland, Founder & President of CYGNUS Management Consultants Inc, , is a recognized expert in helping executives host strategic conversations and obtain high impact feedback. He brings insightful perspective and proven strategies to strengthen the alignment between strategy and leadership behaviour. Scott has presented frequently at regional/national conferences and is a regular contributor to online journals/blogs. Follow Scott on Twitter or add him as a connection on LinkedIn.

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