No Survey Required

I saw some discussion on Twitter recently about measuring employee engagement.

I can confirm that I was polite in my contribution.

Of course if measuring employee engagement is something you feel it is important to do, then there are the obvious solutions. Annual surveys and pulse surveys and temperature checks.  Surveys on paper surveys on apps.  Big fat long surveys and little ones too.  Hit a button as you leave the office emoticon style how are you feeling today type checks.

They are all there to choose from. To measure something for you.

Measurement. In inverted commas.

Because of course there is more to engagement than percentages. Filled in forms and one to five ratings and net promoter scores and do you have a best friend at work?

I’ll confess. About all of that I am so….. meh.

Data is useful. Important.

I get it. Evidence.  Proof.  Business cases and return on investment and a basis for decision making.

But there is more to how your employees feel than numbers. The day to day experience can’t easily be quantified.

Percentages are neat and tidy and precise. But people are not.

So here are my strictly unscientific, untidy, unquantifiable and entirely subjective ways to assess how your people really feel about working at your place. No survey required.

First up. Good noise. I always think that when people are happy at work, when there is some team spirit going, on you can not only feel it but hear it.  There will be laughter and chatting.  Good noises, team noises, having fun and working at the same type noises. Silence… tells you something else.

Next is absence and lateness. Something that you can actually put a percentage on if you choose.  I don’t mean the genuine stuck on the motorway serious illness sent home because they look terrible sort of absence and lateness.  Instead the I can’t be arsed type.  The dog ate my homework type.  Which really translates into I don’t really care all that much.  And you know you know the difference.

The state of the place. Disengaged employees don’t care about where they work. Sometimes, very low levels of engagement translate into deliberate damage to the environment. I once worked for an organisation in which casual damage and graffiti were rife.  If people like their jobs and like their colleagues they will be part of making it a nice place to be every day.

Collaboration. Especially when it comes to new stuff and change.  Engaged employees will pitch in, ask questions and take it on board.  People who are disengaged, won’t.  See next point.

Moaning. People who are unhappy at work, moan. Simple but true.  And if there isn’t anything to moan about they will moan about that.  From the big stuff to the minutiae.  Pity parties all round.

Ideas. Engaged employees have ideas and are willing to share them. You will get suggestions for improvements, sometimes without evening asking. They will speak up because they feel that they can and they want things to be better.

Grievances. Employees have a legal right to raise a grievance and have it dealt with in accordance with the ACAS code.  But when employees are engaged and have strong relationships with their managers you are much more likely to see people having conversations about their issues in an adult way rather than writing a formal letter.  Ditto discipline.

The extracurricular. Engaged employees come to learning events.  They take part in team activities.  They are part of the dress down day, the charity bake-off, the wellbeing month and the team lunch.  Because they want too.  When people are disengaged, for whatever reason that may be, they will put often put themselves outside anything that is strictly the day job.

Finally, and perhaps the most telling of all.  The language that people use.  How they speak to each other. Whether it is broadly positive or negative.  How much time is spent in criticism or in anger. Them or I.  The management or us.  They or we.

So by all means run your survey. Figure out a percentage and where you sit in comparison to other companies and set a target for next year.

But don’t forget to look and listen to what else your people are telling you about their level of engagement.

Even when they don’t even know it.

Engaged but Disengaged

S Cat

I met a man recently, whom I would describe, in true Schrodinger’s cat style, as both engaged and disengaged.

Engaged with his job, his colleagues, his day to day. His job has meaning for him. He has friends there. The hours suit him fine and the pay isn’t too bad. The working environment makes the grade. He knows what is expected of him, he has all of the right tools and equipment, the opportunity to do his best every day. Willing to do the discretionary effort thing, when it’s needed. Proud of a job well done. He even has a best friend at work.

Many of the Gallup measures ticked off, right there.

Although he wouldn’t fill in any kind of survey, if you asked him.

The last time he was sent one, he said that They could stick it right up Their arse.

When he told me this story, he mimed it too. Screwed up an imaginary piece of paper into a ball, tossed it into an imaginary waste paper basket. And followed the imaginary trajectory with a not at all imaginary two fingered salute.

They don’t understand what it’s like on the shop floor.
They don’t know what it’s like outside of the nine till five.
They sit in their ivory bloody towers in the head office.
They send out surveys and they take no bloody notice of what you say anyway and they put a number on it so they can trace it back to me if they want to so I’m saying nothing.
They gave us these stupid values. What a joke. As if anyone has got any time for all that when there is a job to be done and anyway, They don’t follow them. I know They don’t.
They change everything every five minutes.
They makes us go on all these training courses just to tick a bloody box.

Engaged but disengaged. Engaged with the job but not engaged with the company, the management, the leadership, Them.

Meaningful work, made.
Discretionary effort, done.
Performance, reviewed and approved.
Objectives, fully achieved.

So where exactly does this fit into the neat little employee engagement box?

And then it dawned on me. That the They that he talks about, is me.
Not me personally maybe, but someone just like me. Sitting in an office, crafting policies. Sending out surveys. Launching initiatives. Making people plans.

And all the time, he is seen, but unseen.

Engaged but disengaged.