Employee Engagement – Don’t Start with the Survey

In recent years much has been said about employee engagement. Much has also been done. There are now a number of research studies that can clearly link employee satisfaction with customer satisfaction, that can link feelings of engagement with organisation productivity, and there are a number of drivers of employee engagement which have now been commonly identified.
A growing number of companies have now surveyed their populations and built an employee survey into their organisation routines. In some organisations, major initiatives have been taken to get employees directly involved in generating ideas for the business. Get the facts about  employee engagement
Yet when all this has been said and done, why is it that the large survey organisations have been publicising that still only 25% to 35% of employees are actually engaged.
Some might argue that this is the recession at work. Others might say that it is how the survey organisations determine the border between who is engaged, somewhat engaged, somewhat disengaged and totally disengaged. Others, more cynically, might say it is a scare tactic that is good for the survey industry.

A more telling indicator for a lack of employee engagement is the low number of managers that have been trained in how to engage their staff. This is in spite of a number of developments over the years in leadership training. Either leadership training has not worked, or is now deemed inappropriate, or too expensive.
Managers are a critical factor in employee engagement. For instance, the McLeod report to the UK government indicated that this was one of the four main factors alongside top leadership activities, and employee voice and a sense of integrity.
Managers themselves do not always have an easy time during employee engagement activities. Surveys tend to ask the staff how good the managers are. If the managers are little trained, and then much strained by exposure in a survey, this is not a good recipe for getting them motivated to putting anything right.
So what is going on here? There is a potential process problem. Company managements believe, or are led to believe, that their first action is to do a survey which is benchmarked against other organisations. Then they just have to run the survey every year, or so, to see what has changed. Survey organisations are very pleased to supply such mechanisms using their well-developed, formulaic, slick, although often expensive, solutions.