by Richard Lambert, Morale Solutions Ltd for Customer Experience Magazine

Employee engagement continues to be impossible to pin down. There is no single definition yet, but it doesn’t matter. We all know what we as individuals think it is. We embrace the concept, just can’t quite put our collective fingers on how to succinctly express it.

But we know it is important. And we know it adds value (and profit) to our business.

There is a mass of evidence supporting the causal links between positive employee engagement leading to better employee performance and in turn better customer service which can lead to improved business performance.

What people can (more or less) agree on is that engagement stems from motivation to go above and beyond the call of duty in the workplace. I recently spent some time going back to basics and re-reading around Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (applied to motivation theory). It was a fun journey.

So much so that I decided to crib a bit and crow-bar the model around an ideal approach to an employee engagement survey.

I cheated.

Maslow has 5 levels (Physiological, Safety, Social, Esteem and Self-Actualisation).

I’ve got 6 in my hierarchy. Let’s call it an unadvertised bonus. People seem to like those.

Here are my 6 core steps in delivering an employee engagement survey which makes a positive difference. From bottom to top of the pyramid;

  1. Welcome Change
    You need to be open to the survey and embrace the chance to learn about what your employees think and feel. Welcome the opportunity to change for the better.

    Ask yourself why your organisation is thinking about an engagement survey. Ask “why” 5 times in a row. If you can get the answer to each of these questions in turn, you’ll be in a good place and have a goal to aim at.

    For example;
    Why are we considering a survey?
    Because we want to know what everyone thinks about working here?

    Why do we want to know that?
    Because it’ll be interesting to see the differences between the various parts of the business.

    Why are differences important?
    Because if we know that Team A are happy about something and Team B are unhappy about the same thing, then we should do something about it?

    Why should we do something?
    Because if we make some changes, then Team B would be happier in their jobs?

    Why would that matter?
    Because if Team B are happier, then they might do better work and we might sell more widgets and the performance of the business would be improved.

    Aha! Doing this kind of work ONLY EVER MATTERS when you commit to and take action.

  2. Open Involvement
    Historically, these types of surveys are managed internally by HR, with some top team involvement along the way. Then the questionnaire magically appears in front of people’s eyes…and everyone holds their breath.

    If you create a beautifully crafted survey, with razor sharp questions BUT it’s not covering the stuff that your employees actually care about, then the whole thing is a waste of time.

    You simply have to have some way of ensuring that the content of your questionnaire meets 2 key goals.

    a) Do our staff think the topics and questions in this survey are important in their jobs here (irrespective of whether they are happy or unhappy about the issues in hand)?

    b) Are we as an organisation able and/or prepared to take action against any one of the issues that are covered by the survey (if they are identified as strategically important)?

    That’s all you have to do to make your questionnaire have a fighting chance. Believe me, these steps are very much in the “easier-said-than-done” category.

  3. Leverage Participation
    You need people to take part in the survey.

    But you need people to take part for the right reasons.

    Not because they might win a prize draw competition.

    Not because the company is making a charity donation for each completed survey.

    But because people believe that taking part will help to make a difference to what it’s like to work in the organisation.

    They have to trust that you will do something with the survey results. There is an element of “proof of the pudding” in this leap of faith. But it’s also about leadership profile and the senior management promise.

    Once you’ve got that message across, there are still some relatively minor participation barriers to overcome (concerns about anonymity and confidentiality for example).


Read the rest of the Richard’s tips tomorrow, in the 2nd part of his article about the efficiency of employee surveys, made exclusively for Customer Experience Magazine.

Interesting links

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