Disclosure: This post contains a quote and link to one of my clients, TinyPulse.
If you feel like you’re in a rut at work, you aren’t alone. A recent Gallup poll found that 67 percent of workers aren’t engaged—or worse, they’re actively disengaged—a number that’s been pretty stagnant for the past 16 years.
Somehow, despite the best of intentions, corporate culture has taken a misstep. That’s why it’s time to ditch those well-used annual engagement surveys and redefine how you view and measure employee engagement.
Where The Traditional Approach to Employee Engagement Goes Wrong
When a company gets employee engagement right, you see improvements in productivity, satisfaction, and commitment. When it misses the mark, the energy in the room isn’t the only thing that might trend downward.
Employee engagement efforts typically follow a cycle: The annual survey goes out, people (hopefully) complete it, results are compiled, a report comes out, and new initiatives are tested until the next survey rolls around. This rarely produces long-term results—and here’s why.
- Companies focus too much on feelings. Of course employee attitudes have a significant impact in the workplace, but they’re shaped by a mix of personal and professional factors—and measuring them is highly subjective. Companies need to look at the link between attitude and behavior, but also need to bear in mind that the two aren’t always related.
- Executives often want to be the problem solvers. But, they need to learn to share the love. Having a handful of engagement “champions” on your leadership team may seem to make sense, but you risk overwhelming them and making them lynchpins in your program. Instead, get employees involved; they need to have a stake in any changes if you’re going to create a meaningful and lasting shift.
- Data isn’t timely. By the time the results of an annual survey come out, the information can be months old—and it can take many more months to update your engagement strategy and move forward with it. Management may make a strong effort to change company culture, but using dated information—with no immediate feedback—often yields very little in the way of change.
Attitudes, internal champions, and data are critical factors for engagement—but they can also be distracting if they aren’t used appropriately. You need to foster a continuous feedback loop, one that measures meaningful results and provides information that can be acted on immediately.
A Modern Approach to Measuring Employee Engagement
To change the levels of engagement at your company, start by redefining what you want to measure, then use frequent surveys as progress reports to help get an understanding of employees’ immediate needs.
Simple acts that make people feel valued and respected can go a long way toward helping people feel engaged. As TinyPulse, a company that offers real-time engagement reports, aptly describes: “Listening to your employees is a great way to build trust.”
Engagement Should Be Driven by Values
For a modern employee engagement initiative to succeed, companies need to change how they encourage it. Trying to force happiness or job satisfactionin the workplace can backfire, as TinyPulse disclosed in a study published in 2015.
So mix it up a bit.
IBM is one corporate giant who has led the way with triple-benefit programs for some time now. Their Corporate Service Corps, for example, sends groups of employees to an emerging market for a period of time. While there, they develop and use leadership and problem-solving skills to create real-world solutions for local communities. They come back to their day jobs with stronger individual skills, closer ties to colleagues and the company, and an unforgettable experience.
Another IBM program, the Smarter Cities Challenge, challenges staffers to solve meaningful urban issues, like health, sanitation, and transportation.
These programs give employees a new way to see the brand they represent; they’ve significantly improved employee participation, satisfaction, and retention rates.
But employee engagement isn’t about grand gestures; it’s about the underlying values. These can include:
- Empowering individuals. Employers who get staff involved in the engagement process empower their employees to have frank conversations with managers, which lets leaders act and enact change more effectively.
- Increasing transparency. When people don’t have the information or the community they need to get things done, they tend to leave. Help your teams collaborate by adding technology to bridge gaps—but don’t introduce new tools as solutions on their own, use them as part of a multifaceted strategy.
- Prioritizing wellness. Individual health, financial security, and mental well-being are among the personal factors that can affect professional engagement. Focus on initiatives that help people fulfill individual as well as business
Use 2016 as a time to review your regular engagement metrics, listen to employees, and see what a focus on engagement can do for you. After all, your human capital is one of your company’s most valuable assets.