by Allan Schweyer
“Research has clearly and consistently proved the direct link between employee engagement, customer satisfaction and revenue growth.”~ Harvard Business Review, 2000
If there ever was a true debate around the linkage between employee engagement and organizational success, that debate has long since ceased. The correlation between employee engagement and every measure of organizational success is so well-established and so universally accepted that it requires no further attention here.
The focus in government agencies today must be on action: how to drive better employee engagement, rather than on whether employee engagement is worth measuring and encouraging. Once an organization believes that a more engaged workforce is a higherperforming one, the next logical step is to measuring current engagement levels to set a benchmark, and then regularly (at least annually) re-measure engagement to chart progress.
Many agencies measure employee satisfaction but not engagement. Some may rely on the OPM’s annual Employee Viewpoint Survey for an indication of engagement levels. The Viewpoint survey is a good tool – about half the questions map well to employee engagement – but it is a general survey, not specific to the needs of any particular agency. Each agency should run its own survey and use the Viewpoint survey results (and other external surveys) for external benchmarking.
The challenge lies in getting the measurement right. Agencies must bear in mind that the tools they choose to assess engagement in year one will be the foundation upon which future data is set. If the data collected is not right or is missing important elements, it will have to be revised or even discarded. Doing so is potentially time consuming and expensive.
Choosing the right instruments is also important from a user perspective. Too many questions, for example, might lower participation rates while too few questions will limit the usefulness of the data. An employee engagement assessment must be balanced against the other surveys employees are asked to complete. An agency that uses an employee satisfaction survey for example, might consider discontinuing it once it begins assessing employee engagement.
For decades or longer, good managers have intuitively understood that employee engagement generates powerful returns. More recently, research results that quantify those returns have been available to leaders. Naturally, knowing that employee engagement is a strong determinant of organizational success, executives want to understand the level of engagement of their employees. As such, employee engagement surveys have mushroomed. Today there are literally thousands to choose from.
Many valid tools exist to measure employee engagement but the careful section of the right tool for a particular organization is often bypassed. All employee engagement instruments are not the same, nor should they all be administered and interpreted the same. Careful selection will pay off for years to come.
Finally, agencies must start with the premise that they are going to analyze and then do something with the data an employee engagement assessment provides. A surprising number of organizations invest in surveying employees and then do little to nothing afterward to drive engagement levels higher. Knowing resource limitations and objectives up front will also aid in the selection of the right engagement assessment tool.