I’m not an advocate for Engagement surveys – they have always struck me as somewhere demeaning: sit over there and communicate with leaders via a digital dashboard. Why not simply ask people what they think, how they feel and what we can collectively do to make the organisation succeed. I have never found people to hold back when I ask them those questions. If you think they won’t be honest, address that problem. Don’t create another.
I ‘get’ the value of benchmarking, trends and comparisons – with customers, markets, products, not work partners.
Are surveys inherently flawed? No, it is just that they may well take organisations away from their goal in this area, not towards it. Forcing human insight and goodwill into the narrow bandwidth of clicks and ticks seems odd. (As for those lacking goodwill, they shouldn’t be there in the first place so the results become meaningless.)
The way you can tell if people are really communicating freely is if you as leader are ‘comfortable’ with criticism from anyone.(I put comfortable in quotation marks as past programming may make feedback of any kind inherently uncomfortable.)
People are fully engaged when six factors are high. These have been consistent in organisations I have observed in 10 countries across a wide range of culture and enterprise. If any one area is low, performance is compromised.
- Work environment
- Organisation (as both noun and verb)
- Valued – not ‘values’. This is the extent to which people feel valued – do they see the link between what they do and the positive effect on others both inside and outside the organisation? If not, they will find it hard to keep toiling away without the satisfaction of knowing they are making a difference. Valued includes what is noticed and acted upon. It includes mechanisms to respond to concerns and routine individual/team and organisation timeouts (to decompress if needed), review how things have gone and joint planning of next steps.
- Work environment includes atmosphere, how people treat each other and are welcomed when they first join. It has to do with how people feel working together and their mutual respect. It also includes tolerance of diversity and how a group celebrates difference and makes the most of it for high performance. It also includes capability to handle conflict and pressures including the ‘politics’ associated with strong personalities and the influence they are seen to have.
- Productivity includes how work is organised and allocated, the workflows and being able to get things done efficiently. (It includes induction and onboarding.)
- Fit includes who is put into what role and which tasks they are allocated; it includes regular review to account for scope creep.
- Aspiration includes systematic on-job learning (whereby managers process with employees their learning and how it relates to their role), delegation, group learning opportunities and a focus on continuous improvement/organisational learning. This factor encourages creative thinking and innovation whereby people can turn their minds to making things work better and have a sense of pride and fulfillment from directly and/or indirectly contributing to achievement.
- Organisation includes recruitment, induction/onboarding (this is also under 3. Productivity), structure/roles, management (who and how), communication channels, internal marketing (i.e. reminding staff systematically about their impact, the positives, reinforcing the value of working here), quality controls, feedback loops, H&S/wellbeing, risk management, planning and tracking against plans, reporting, celebrating, leadership, ethics and values alignment.
When these 6 elements are collectively managed by everyone, equally, the organisation (and the individual) performs to potential. Engagement is not about people with something added but when nothing has been taken away.