Employee engagement is an often studied, rarely understood beast. My issue with the concept stands with how we measure engagement, what metrics we’re measuring and what we do with the data we collect from our efforts. We’ve already covered the flaws in how we collect data and kind of data we’re collecting in the workplace. Now, it’s time to focus on what kind of action we generate with the data we collect.

THE SIGNAL VS THE NOISE 

Let’s say your survey is over, and you have the data. What items, index groupings or themes are you seeing? You are in the position to either recommend, or make a decision based on this data. That will presumably require your organization spend time and resources on the required “action planning” your decision will create. So, looking at the analysis, where do we start? 

Well, it depends on how you look at it. Do you act on the items with the lowest amount of overall satisfaction? Should you focus on the pain points of the organization—items with the highest amount of dissatisfaction? Do you advise the company to focus on the item that is trending down since the last time you measured? 

A lot of business minds would advise that you start with the item furthest away from its benchmark—even if they are arbitrary. Some vendors try to put lipstick on a pig, using rudimentary statistics to create prioritization. And at the end of it all, we are faced with the ugly, disruptive truth. Action is determined by best guess, best practice or pure conjecture due to lack of an objective way to separate the signal from the noise. Scary right?

It’s terrifying to think your business is spending hundreds, if not thousands, of hours being forced to take surveys, sit through consultations and go through action planning on information determined by speculation. What if we found a way to filter the signal from the noise? 

Your organization will never be perfect for everyone. We need to focus on what matters the most to employees. Gallup’s “Strength Finders” is an international best seller because it changed the outlook on individual development from “strengthen your weaknesses” to “self-awareness and highlighting your strengths”. This same shift needs to happen in the world of organizational assessments.

Let’s not dedicate our company’s time addressing the noise. It’s good to check for holes in your company’s armor, but it is more important that you highlight why your organization is a great place to work. Let’s align resources with company benefits that will have the greatest impact on our people. 

TAKING A LOOK IN THE MIRROR 

Let’s face it. Not all employees are good employees. Natural churn is a healthy thing. A lot of employees aren’t in the right role, aren’t on the right team or aren’t a great fit with their leader. Often times, employees don’t agree with changes in strategy or direction. 

…is it right for employees who choose not be part of the team’s direction to have an equal say in the future direction of the company?

Cy Wakeman

Cy Wakeman, an applied psychologist and no-nonsense leader, asks a great question in her latest book, “No Ego.” She asks, is it right for employees who choose not be part of the team’s direction to have an equal say in the future direction of the company? A great question, indeed. One of her points is that modern engagement surveys create a vacuum. Employees can vent or provide negative feedback about their work environment—without being held accountable as part of the solution. 

It is time we look in the mirror. While I believe everyone should have an equal say, I also believe not everyone’s voice should count equally. If I know a teammate is leaving because they didn’t fit in with our team, I am not necessarily interested in their voice influencing my benefits after they are gone. Should we take into account what they say when we collect and interpret data on engagement? We may be adding to the noise in our data set if we include data from employees that who don’t align with our goals or are not accountable to act on their own feedback.

Would it be more effective if we focused on feedback from those that are committed to each other and to the organization? Or if we focused on the feedback from those that are still going to be here tomorrow working through the ramifications of that feedback? I am okay knowing not everybody can—or even wants to—be on my team. I focus my energy on being the best teammate I can, not on those that chose not to be with us. I am going to look in the mirror and realize that sometimes we are left having to prioritize our time on people that are good for us.

It matters how we interpret the data from satisfaction and employee engagement surveys. If we aren’t collecting useful information, why are we even collecting it?