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Feb 27, 2018

Industry insights,

Get started with employee engagement

According to Gallup’s 2017 global survey, one of the biggest divides that’s happening now within our workplaces is the per cent of organisations that claim employee engagement is one of their top priorities, a whopping 87%, versus the per cent of employees that say they are engaged at work, a significantly lower 15%, and said to be on the decline.

Why are we seeing such a variation in the numbers?

The means by which an organisation measures employee engagement has traditionally been using employee surveys. This method is considered tried and tested, but just how engaging is a survey, and how effective is it at producing accurate quantifiable insights or could there be a better way?

Employee engagement surveys certainly serve a purpose, and if it’s the obligatory tick box exercise that needs to be completed, then I guess they will suffice. The main issue with employee engagement surveys is the ‘engagement’ part. As a functional method they work, but to actually get under the skin of employees and to be able to produce insights that can be transformed into something tangible like improvement action plans is another story. To do this you need to create a platform that’s right for harvesting this type of feedback, and you need to ensure that your employees are onboard. Yes, that’s right you need to engage them in the process first. That might seem like an odd thing to say, engage your employees ahead of employee engagement, but it really is vital.   I heard this anecdote a few years ago, but it resonated with me at the time, and I think it works perfectly within this context.

It’s the story of the builder and the cathedral (although it’s been told in a variety of ways).

A man came upon a construction site where three people were working.  He asked the first, “What are you doing?” and the man replied: “I am laying bricks.” He asked the second, “What are you doing?” and the man replied: “I am building a wall.” As he approached the third, he heard him humming a tune as he worked, and asked, “What are you doing?” The man stood, looked up at the sky, and smiled, “I am building a cathedral!”

The crux of this story is that essentially the three men were all doing the same job, the difference in their attitude towards the job they were doing differs between them because of one thing: a shared vision. The first man didn’t know anything of what he was trying to achieve, he was simply laying bricks, the second man knew a little more, albeit, limited information and was therefore building a wall, the last man was the engaged member of staff, he could visualise the job in hand, he knew he was building a cathedral because someone had taken the time to include him in the end goal.

And that’s the point. If you want to conduct an employee engagement exercise it really is vital that you share with your employees why you are doing it and what you want to achieve by taking up their time and seeking their opinions.

Coming back to the original question “how effective are employee engagement surveys?” in my experience, not particularly effective at either getting factually accurate insights or at generating the volume of data that’s required to see a trend. There are many barriers to achieving an effective internal survey, these include employees having the time to fill them in, no real deadline, concerns around anonymity and low responses generally.

So what can be done?

At the end of last year we chose to take our questions, concerns and feedback to the TownHall. Ok, not the actual town council, but what we’ve created is an effective blue print for employee engagement that we know works because our employees are seeing the benefit daily. The TownHall meeting is a quarterly event that runs outside of work hours and is open to everyone. It’s an inclusive meeting, people from all areas of the business are encouraged to provide their input and suggestions. Leading up to the meetings and via our TownHall email address people can anonymously raise any concerns, questions or suggestions and direct them to one or more of the board for a prompt response. This format works brilliantly. Our employees know they have a platform that they can utilise to influence the change that they want to see happen. Changes so far have seen big things like 50 extra car parking spaces and extra days annual leave, through to smaller changes like an additional fridge and an extra drinks budget.

We know this works well for us and what we want to achieve, but above all this, what this platform does exceptionally well is it allows us to fully share our vision and make sure each employee knows what collectively we are trying to accomplish.