The Challenge in Measuring Employee Engagement

Is it fair or accurate to lump all employee engagement results together? I don’t think so. I look to the results of those organizations that track employee engagement after dedicating the resources to ensure change. As a Strengths Strategy Certified coach, I have experienced and have confidence in the strong employee engagement results that come with organizations who have invested in their leaders and their employees.

I wonder what you think about employee engagement. What have you found that works? What makes it so? Is there anything you have experienced or seen that does not work and why?

This is part 2 in the 5-part series on Employee Engagement by Diana Gabriel, Certified Strengths Strategy Coach.

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With so many organizations focusing on Employee Engagement, why aren’t engagement levels across the world increasing?

The Gallup Organization has published many annual reports based on their global workforce surveys. Everyone assumes a shared meaning for the concept of engagement, but there is little agreement in how to improve it. So, let’s look deeper.

David Mizne of 15five.com defines employee engagement as “proactively and passionately adding value while aligning with the company mission.” In his opinion, this can be hard to quantify. He goes on to say, “an engaged employee wears it on their face, demonstrates it in their work and in their workplace communication.”

Mizne feels that the exact definition of employee engagement remains elusive, and becomes even more problematic when one considers Gallup’s somewhat ambiguous subcategories of “not engaged” and “actively disengaged.”

Companies and leaders worldwide certainly recognize the advantages of engaging employees, and many have instituted surveys to measure engagement. Yet, in well over a decade the statistics on employee engagement have barely budged.

Gallup sees a clear divide emerging within the engagement industry. On one end of the spectrum are scientifically validated approaches that lead to changes in individual and business performance. When surveys are supported by strategic development and performance solutions, organizational cultures shift. These approaches require more intentionality and investment; however, companies that use them are more likely to see increases in employee engagement.

At the other end of the spectrum are unvalidated, unfocused annual surveys. Much like a traditional employee satisfaction survey, this type of survey usually measures a multitude of workplace dimensions with limited alignment to business objectives. So, it can be difficult to develop action plans for employee improvement based on results.

I’ve seen this happen in organizations I work with. Technology makes it easy to create an “employee survey” and call it an engagement program, which allows a company to fulfill an apparent organizational need and “check a box.” Or, for a professional development activity, a group takes the StrengthsFinder assessment, but there is no educational piece offered along with it nor follow-up. It’s just a one-time event that includes an assessment.

But metrics or a one-time event on its own does not drive change or increase performance. Many of these event experiences or survey-only approaches measure employee perceptions and provide numbers but don’t improve workplaces and business outcomes. In these activities there is neither focus nor commitment on the solution but rather on the survey or experience.

What’s going on where you work? Have you implemented or participated in an employee engagement survey? Have you experienced a one-time event experience with an assessment? Have you been fortunate to be involved in a committed engagement program? I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me here and on LinkedIn.

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