Beware of the Employee Engagement Survey

Company Culture and Employee Engagement are based on an evolving outcome related to attitudes, behaviour and emotion which has been cultivated and encouraged (or the opposite!) by a staff member’s experience in the workplace.

A research paper recently published by CIPD (May 2012) regarding the effectiveness of Employee Engagement surveys, states that although there may be a high score associated with an organisation’s survey, these findings are related to ‘transactional’ engagement rather than the true ‘emotional’ engagement with the former not bringing long-term, sustainable company success.

So why is this?  Well employees who have transactional engagement are motivated by the project/task and this type of engagement is shaped by the employees concern to earn a living and get the job done.  There is no true desire to go that extra mile for the company itself and there is a tendency that these individuals burnout and their lack of loyalty towards the organisation leads to greater attrition rates.

Emotionally engaged people want to go above and beyond what is normally expected from them for the good of the organisation. There is a greater psychological contract in place between this company and these individuals and it is shown that they tend to have higher levels of well-being and a better work/life balance.

It is therefore important that the content of the surveys and how they are being analysed takes into account the above, as this will have a knock-on effect on the bottom-line in the long run.

And how does a company nurture the Emotionally Engaged employee?

Companies should be strategically focusing on encouraging a workplace that fundamentally promotes the right attitudes, is supportive by nature, empowers its staff, has clear communication and vision and listens to and acts on its employees’ critical feedback.

David Rock’s SCARF model (2008) outlines the five domains which can trigger ‘threat’ or ‘reward’.   Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness.  Deep engagement occurs when people experience rewards from all five domains of SCARF.  HR could start to structure their surveys and the way their Managers are developed around these five components?

I also believe that once a year surveys should not be the only engagement indicator.  I agree with Dr Zara Whysall’s white paper (The E-Word) reference that constantly listening to staff the whole year round and gaining insights into employees’ levels of engagement through their continuous conversations with their Line Managers is a basic way to assess what is going on in the organisation.   This also allows company action to ‘tweak’ areas that are fundamentally falling down.

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