How can you measure it?


For this, the last in the series on Employee Engagement, we look at what you can do to measure, or evaluate, the level of Employee Engagement. We have already looked at many aspects of the subject: start at Part 1 if you have missed any, and our most recent post looked at What things might get in the way.

Firstly, let me give you an insight into my thinking on measuring something like this. In the nineties, I worked for IBM, in what could best be described as the cultural change programme. One of the many initiatives that were being undertaken was the Baldrige Quality Award. (this was, at the time, America’s most prestigious award for quality.). Broadly speaking this was aimed at looking at how things are done in the organisation, and measuring it against ‘world class’ thinking. The issue came when IBM took the standards, and decided that the score was the most important thing. Teams of people were put in place with the sole purpose of assessing areas of the business against the the standard; a Bronze, Silver and Gold Standard were even created (a purely IBM addition to the system). What this obsession with the measurements led to was the whole thing becoming about ‘getting the best score’ which then made it a ‘tick in the box’ exercise  Anyone who has been involved in IiP or ISO audits may have experienced a similar thing.

Someone in our team found (or came up with, I’m not sure) a phrase which explained our feelings about it all….

You don’t fatten a pig by weighing it

What this is basically saying is that all weighing something (assessing or measuring) will give you, is a snapshot of how heavy it is; it will not make it any heavier. This process is mirrored in many different aspects of life. Think of the company that, concerned about the number of invoices being raised, increases sales meetings to daily from weekly (“to see how the invoicing is going”). Or the person who is trying to lose weight, who starts off by standing on the scales every two weeks; then moves to every week and eventually  every day (or more). All this focus on measuring does is put more pressure on the person or people involved in the change, it rarely gives any useful information about what to do.

So if this is the case, why measure it at all?

The reason for measuring is simple – to evaluate progress. By comparing this measurement with the past measurements, you can see if the actions you have been taking are moving things in the right direction. What you need to be doing however, is leaving enough time between measurements. Additionally, some measurements can give you information on where to focus your attention (more on this later).

How to go about measuring Employee Engagement

In my view there are three ways to go about it.

Measure Activity

If you have been following the blog series, or are new to it, but have been working on Employee Engagement for a while, you will have a plan. If it is going to be effective, this plan will at least have a desired outcome or destination, an understanding of what needs to change, a list of the things still to be done, and a schedule of actions. If the planning has been done well, you should intuitively know that the actions will be taking you towards the culture you want. Therefore, keeping track of the actions, and the progress along the plan will be measurement enough for some.

Measurement by Listening

The effectiveness of this method will greatly depend on two things. Either the organisation is small enough that you can reasonably meet, face to face, with everyone in it, in a given period. Or, you have a Management Team that you have total confidence in, and you trust that they will be able to have these discussions. Since Employee Engagement is about creating an environment that people will choose to be more committed, or put in that discretionary effort, you will be able to know how people feel just be listening to them. Please not that I did not say speaking to them. The face to face meetings I am suggesting need to be focussed on ‘finding out’ where people are and how people feel. Too many one-to-ones of this kind (other names could be fireside chat, a discuss, meet the boss) have the intention of finding out, but become the more senior person, doing most of the talking. Your objective in these meetings is to create an atmosphere that the people can open up, and tell you what they really think. This information, if taken on board rather than resulting in defensiveness, will give you great insight into how people really feel.

Measurement by Survey

Many people try to do this. It should be noted that an Employee Engagement Survey, is not the same as a Satisfaction Survey. A lot of research has been done into this, and the general consensus is that, while Satisfaction Surveys are good at focusing on how people feel about specific things, Employee Engagement Survey focus more generally on how people feel. The most consistent features of these surveys are:

  • They are not asked as questions  They will normally be statements, and people will be asked how much they agree with the statement
  • They will often be difficult to relate to satisfaction, for example, ‘I have best friends at work’
  • They will use language that management are often uncomfortable to use, for example ‘I am passionate about my job’

Probably, the most widely known example of this kind of survey, backed up by a great deal of research on the subject, is done by polling organisation, Gallup.

It should be noted however, that the survey itself will be a snap shot of how things are. Remember surveying will not give you Employee Engagement (or fatten your pig).

VR Growth’s Employee Engagement Survey Tool as standard differentiates between people who manage and people who don’t. What we find is that this gives you an indication of how effective the management is in ‘passing on the message’ or cascading the culture. Additionally  it can be done company-wide, or with departments differentiated. The right way to use this is to understand where it is working better, then to find out what they are doing and pass it on; not to find out who’s doing it wrong, or failing. It is an effective way to measure the starting position and then for checking on progress.

As we have discussed in this series Employee Engagement is an outcome. The culture that you create within the organisation is what will have people choose to become engaged. The inherent intangibility of this means that it is difficult to measure in a meaningful way. However, by keeping track of your plan and activity, by listening to people face-to-face, and by using a survey designed to gauge the level of Employee Engagement you will at least be in a better position to know that you are moving in the right direction.

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If you would like to find out more about VR Growths Employee Engagement Tool, get in touch to discuss it.