Here are more lessons learned from my eight years helping lead a global Fortune 50 corporation’s employee engagement journey. These lessons focus on the formal measurement of employee engagement. We found engagement had to be measured:
1. As a key component of a larger process. Research strongly indicates that measuring employee opinions ‘without’ any timely feedback on what was said or tangible actions taken, creates morale issues and increased ineffectiveness. In fact, internally we found more than 15 points higher engagement for employees who received timely feedback on survey results versus those who did not and more than 30 points higher engagement when employees saw managers take action on the survey results.
2. As a major contributor NOT sole contributor to performance improvement. So, we conducted a global Employee Opinion Survey (EOS) that measured key strategic factors including: quality, safety, velocity, change, leadership, and engagement. This allowed us to analyze if statistical relationships and trends existed between key strategic success factors. Each functional area (safety, quality, etc.) worked with internal and external resources to design high level survey questions that would drive high-level trends and follow-up dialog. Most functional areas asked less than five questions on our EOS.
3. By correlation versus causation. We debated and researched this issue for several years. At the end, we concluded that when important business measurements (e.g. quality, safety, scrap, rework, attrition) were trending favorably so was engagement. We found the opposite was also true. We also stopped trying to determine if there was an absolute cause and effect with engagement. Instead we worked on creating engaging behaviors to complement our systems, processes, and philosophies of how to do business.
4. Both activities and outcomes. Our activities were some of the key tactics that helped us achieve our desired outcomes. We tracked and monitored activities such as leaders: opening their survey results on-line; soliciting employees’ reaction and ideas to improve results; creating action plans; and completing action items. But we also measured the correlation between engagement and other key business metrics. We found many favorable correlations between increased engagement and decreased attrition and absenteeism; improved quality and safety, increased implementation of LEAN principles; and a decline in union grievances.
5. Consistently, so leaders who were trying to ‘game the measurement system’ had to be coached. A few of our 7000+ leaders who received survey results tried to shift numbers in a desired direction – even though those numbers may not have reflected reality. Many tactics are mild and overt, but some are not. Four common ‘gaming’ techniques we found were:
- selective timing of morale-boosting events (just before survey)
- withholding perceived negative news/actions until after the survey
- leading the witness, by asking questions in a manner that suggested the leader’s desired answer before taking the survey
- trying to influence the survey rating scale. Some leaders told employees “a neutral score was bad” or “only the highest rating score counted”.
How does your employee engagement process ‘measure up’?
Tomorrow - Lessons learned on Leveraging Success on An Employee Engagement Journey.