One of the things that continues to surprise me is when times are bad organizations still spend money on employee engagement surveys. One would think that a general look around the organization and tea room discussions would make it obvious to all that wanted to see it that employees are not so much engaged as they are worried about their jobs. This leads us to two major issues to consider during tough times, the first is how we inspire confidence and innovation in an organization that appears to be in freeze mode. The second is what you should measure as an indicator of employee engagement.
Let’s deal with inspiring confidence and innovation in your organization. Well this boils down to a communication strategy that focuses on getting employees actively involved at all levels in understanding the business and how their ideas can have a positive impact. Here’s an example of what you could do. Take real business data and share it with groups of employees at all levels that deal with customers in specific sectors. Ask them for ideas on improving or innovating just one aspect of your service offering or product line and test in a specific market segment on a small scale, say a sales territory or state. Then after testing those ideas for a six week period ask employees to examine the business results. Take those ideas that have shown a substantial improvement in sales and implement either state wide or nationally depending on your organization. Design a reward and recognition program around the impact of these ideas on the business outcomes and start to energise your workforce. It really is that simple, treat employees with respect, stop telling them what to do instead listen to what they have to say, put some rigor around the framework for ideas and reward outstanding results. This is how innovation happens and how you can energise an organization to respond quickly to changing market conditions.
So what about employee engagement surveys? I say save your organization the tens of thousands of dollars they cost and invest your time in a well thought out employee communication strategy like that outlined above. This will ensure a climate where communication is open, ideas are valued and actions are implemented. All these steps are indicative of a workforce that is focussed, has purpose and feels a greater level of confidence about the future of their organization and therefore their role because they are actively involved in designing the future, not being told what do and when to do it. If you just change the paradigm from budget cuts, budget cuts and budget cuts to opportunities, growth and involvement your organization’s business results will be your barometer of employee engagement, no survey required.