Having a good day?

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” ~┬áSteve Jobs

Today we look at one simple trick you can use to raise productivity, quality and customer satisfaction while simultaneously reducing absenteeism, attrition, shrinkage and even safety incidents. Find out how after the break.

Okay, so ignoring the clickbait style of the introduction, this certainly sounds like an initiative that any business would be interested in and every team tasked with performance improvement will want to know about. The kicker is that generally, everyone already does know about it and most businesses already do it. Sort of.

I’m talking about employee engagement monitoring. This is clearly a subject that has been around for a long time and yet so often it leaves companies floundering. Either the surveying of staff is considered too arduous or the data too esoteric, the goals too intangible or simply any responses aren’t trusted to be correct.

All that is just from the company’s side, staff often find having to fill out lengthy questionnaires far too much hassle, don’t expect it to change anything, and at worst fear that being honest will have negative repercussions on their work life or even their career.

All of this often leaves employee engagement surveying in this no-mans-land of “a great idea that s under invested in and typically poorly executed at some stage of the process. This is a terrible shame as the issues mentioned can all be overcome (or heavily mitigated) and the benefits can all be realised and measured.

As with so many things, there are better and worse examples with a broad spectrum between the best and worst. Rather than try and discuss all options I’ll outline one way in which I have seen employee surveying conducted and work from there. Hopefully you will recognise some or all aspects of this example.

Surveys are sent out to all staff every six months. Staff are strongly encouraged to complete all questions which take about 30-40 minutes. Managers are measured on how many of their team have replied so they can hurry their staff along, remind people in huddles etc. Assurances are given that responses are anonymous but nobody believes it because their manager is telling them that x of them haven’t responded yet. Once a cut-off date has been reached all the data is compiled and passed to an analyst who has to fit this piece of work around their day job. The aim is “to produce the same report as last time, here’s the PowerPoint”. Senior management review and the results then possibly have them included in a metrics deck where they become slowly further out of date until the next round of questions.

It might seem this way but I assure you that this is not me writing a straw-man to hit all the points I raised earlier, it’s a real-world example and yes, I was that analyst.

This approach is what I would call the ‘easy’ one. It’s actually very hard to meet any of the goals of the process (if they’re defined) and is actually quite a lot of work for all involved, but it’s the easy one to think of, because it’s been done so many times before.

Can it be done better?

Well, yes. I think most people reviewing that process would agree there is room for improvement. How that is achieved is a little trickier. There are many studies and reports that tackle specific areas of the situation. For example, Gallop have a fairly well known “12 question” method that greatly strips down the size of the questionnaire and gets right to the heart of what it should be asking.

  1. Do you know what is expected of you at work?
  2. Do you have the materials and equipment to do your work right?
  3. At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?
  4. In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  5. Does your supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about you as a person?
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages your development?
  7. At work, do your opinions seem to count?
  8. Does the mission/purpose of your company make you feel your job is important?
  9. Are your associates (fellow employees) committed to doing quality work?
  10. Do you have a best friend at work?
  11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to you about your progress?
  12. In the last year, have you had opportunities to learn and grow?

I’m glad to see these questions are becoming more widely used. I do think there is a place for a larger question set with questions that are somewhat less leading. That’s not to say I think these questions are bad, but if you think about a Myers-Briggs test, it doesn’t ask you “How introverted are you” but rather asks specific questions that are indicators of the desired measurement. However, having to answer a huge set of questions, particularly to an arbitrary deadline is often a turn-off in itself.

While the ’12 question’ approach can be a big improvement I feel that chipping away t the problem leaves it open to never actually getting resolved. Particularly as with a 6-monthly schedule any lessons learned and adaptations are hugely slow to be realised. what we need is a sea change, but how? Well, there is an example in another area of surveying we can borrow from.

Customer Satisfaction surveying is typically carried out in two ways. First there’s the ‘Relational’ method. This aims to understand how happy the customer is with the company, products, services etc in a general fashion. It’s not triggered by any event and is asking broad questions. It could take the form of emailed surveys sent to the customer or intermediary. It is, as the name suggests, asking about the relationship the customer has with the company.

The second method is ‘Transactional’ surveying. Here the questions are targeted to a specific interaction the customer has just had with the customer. A call, a website visit, at the end of an onboarding process etc. There’s a big overlap in the questions asked (such as the ubiquitous NPS question) but further questions about the interaction (transaction) can also be asked: “How would you rate the warmth and friendliness of the person you spoke to today?”, “Were you able to resolve your query on the first attempt?”

It’s this second method that I feel is lacking from employee engagement surveys. This post has already run long so I’ll pick up in the next post with how this applies to employees and how we can go about delivering it.

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