Employee engagement, defined as the extent to which employees are committed to their organizations and willing to put forth “above and beyond” effort, is a top priority for many leaders today. An engaged employee is one who wants to see their organization succeed because they personally identify with the mission and values it espouses—and their commitment inspires others to give their best too. A disengaged employee, on the other hand, simply goes through the motions—or worse, actively tries to undermine the organization’s effectiveness. With an engaged workforce, creativity, innovation, and productivity are maximized—a boon to any organization.
To improve engagement, many organizations begin with an employee survey. Asking employees for feedback about how they experience their work and workplace on a daily basis offers valuable insight to leaders, who can use that information to strategize about how to foster a culture of engagement and reap the rewards of a committed workforce.
Yet there are many misconceptions about employee engagement surveys floating around out there. Here, we dispel three of the ones we hear most often when speaking with new clients who are considering incorporating this tool into their organization’s strategy.
1) Administering a survey will increase engagement
People sometimes assume that just the act of administering a survey will automatically increase engagement. While it’s true that implementing an engagement survey can implicitly communicate to employees that leaders want to hear what they have to say, it’s not enough to stop there. Doing so is like stepping on a scale and expecting to see weight loss. Weighing yourself is an important first step in determining if you do indeed have extra pounds to shed, but if it’s not followed up by changes to your diet and exercise regimen, you’re probably going to stay exactly where you are.
Likewise, leaders must follow up with thoughtful action on the key themes that emerged from the survey results if they hope to positively impact engagement. They must also communicate why and how certain things were deemed priorities while others were tabled for later. Being transparent about what you learned from the survey and then acting upon those lessons are key to ensuring your survey has the effect you want. You’ll also need to keep “hopping on the scale” with follow up conversations or pulse surveys to determine if your interventions are actually working to boost people’s commitment at work, and change course if they are not.
2) You have to do really big things after a survey
Another common misconception is that your organization needs to do really big things after a survey. To demonstrate to employees that you heard their concerns, people tend to think you need to hire a new CEO, create three new task forces, implement a new internal communication tool, and remodel the entire office by the end of next quarter.
While big systemic and cultural changes are sometimes necessary in an organization, often what matters most to employees are remedies to the little nuisances that frustrate them in the day-to-day.
For instance, one healthcare client we worked with learned that the major grievance held by the nursing staff was that the fax machine was on a high shelf, and they constantly had to be climbing on chairs to reach it. Once the machine was moved to a lower table, people’s daily faxing frustration was eliminated, and engagement actually improved.
Making sure the basic conditions for best work are present is one simple thing employers can do to drive engagement. They can also make an effort to return to relationship fundamentals and ensure that managers and team members are treating one another with respect, trust, and appreciation. Delivering on the small things can often lead to big improvements—so don’t get bogged down thinking that you need to overhaul the whole organization after a survey.
3) Rolling out a survey makes more work for everyone
The final misperception we hope to dispel is that implementing an engagement survey adds more work to everyone’s to-do list. This couldn’t be more wrong! Many people assume that a survey is a waste of time or too cumbersome to roll out effectively, but if used wisely, a survey can illuminate problem areas in your organization that, with a little tweaking, will create a smoother workflow and more productive workforce.
Following a survey, there certainly needs to be strategic action planning that requires some dedicated thought and effort. Some changes will also require lots of communication and even some training. But taking the time to invest in these things will quickly pay off in the form of better collaboration, teamwork, and synergy in your organization—as well as increased engagement among all of your employees.
To sum it up, hopefully, dispelling these myths about employee engagement surveys will encourage you to try this approach out for yourself. With the help of Newmeasures’ implementation and consulting expertise, you can trust that monitoring and acting on employee engagement priorities will only help your organization fulfill its mission—not get in the way of achieving other goals.