Employee Engagement Surveys… Separating Gut Instinct from Reality

Employee Engagement Surveys… Separating Gut Instinct from Reality  

By Peter Barron Stark | October 15th, 2009 | Leadership / Leading Change

CEOs and Managers Discuss Survey Success

Throughout our twenty years of experience as management consultants we have been conducting Employee Opinion Surveys, also known as Employee Engagement Surveys, in hopes that the feedback would enable management teams to build organizations that are even more productive and profitable. Many times people ask the question, “Is the goal of an Employee Engagement Survey to make the organization more ‘warm and fuzzy’?” While we are certain that some CEOs or Human Resource professionals would say that is the goal, the majority do not.

When we interview CEOs who conduct Employee Engagement Surveys and ask the question, “Why do you do this?” most say they are listening to employees in hopes that they can improve the organization. As Mike Easley, CEO of Powder River Energy, states, “Our employees know reality. I do not see how a CEO can run an organization without having accurate feedback from the people who are actually serving the customers — if employees are to be effective and pleasant with customers, they need to feel good about the organization and the people that they work with.” Easley believes that the real goal is to help the organization be more competitive and more cost effective. Dave Doss, CEO of Arizona State Credit Union, says, “We are relying on the belief that employees who are satisfied with their performance are more productive, provide higher levels of customer service and teamwork, and take initiative more often in the best interests of the organization.”

So, do Employee Engagement Surveys really work? The answer is an overwhelming “Yes!” Approximately 95 percent of the organizations we have worked with who have completed a second survey report an increase in favorable employee opinions compared to the first survey. The average length of time between the first and second surveys was approximately 18 months. Improvement was noted in specific areas: teamwork, customer service, clarity of strategic direction, motivation, and communication.

Based on our past experiences and interviews with clients, properly used Employee Engagement Surveys can be an extremely successful tool in helping organizations achieve their goals.

  • An Employee Engagement Survey gives the management team an accurate picture of reality. Management teams usually have a gut feeling about what is right and what could be improved in their organizations. What they do not have is objective, measurable data that provides an accurate picture of what their employees think is going well and what could be improved. It is one thing when a manager thinks there might be a problem with cross-departmental teamwork or the level of service that is provided to customers. It is quite another thing when the management team knows that 60 percent of all employees state that teamwork is low in the organization.

  • Management teams who take action on the results usually see improved morale. When management teams do something with the feedback from the survey, they send out a message that management really does care, and they value the opinions of employees. Recently, a senior management team agreed with employees that they needed to clarify the organization’s vision and goals. This took several meetings to analyze, define, and clarify the company’s vision and goals. Employees were encouraged to provide input and to ask questions. This one definite action by management let employees know that what they say does make a difference.

  • An Employee Engagement Survey helps build relationships between managers and their staff. If there are relationship problems between certain managers and employees, the survey pinpoints the precise area that needs to improve and the depth of the problem. An Employee Engagement Survey provides every manager with specific feedback about their department. We worked with a manager whose feedback indicated that the manager did not hold employees accountable. The manager decided to meet with each employee on a monthly basis and give honest feedback on the employee’s performance. When a manager is willing to use the feedback and change behaviors in some of the lowest rated areas, relationships almost always grow stronger.

  • An Employee Engagement Survey produces hard data to measure an organization’s progress. It is common knowledge that you get what you measure.

  • An Employee Engagement Survey provides management with a tool to hold people accountable. There are times when an organization becomes aware that they have a leader who creates significant relationship problems for the organization. The Employee Engagement Survey provides very specific quantitative data that gives a manager feedback regarding which specific areas need improvement. With this information, the manager can require accountability for actions and request appropriate changes in behavior.

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