There’s no secret about why employers are ramping up efforts to increase workforce engagement these days.

It’s because the investment pays out: engagement drives results.

Numerous industry studies link higher levels of engagement to better business performance. Gallup is well known for their measurement expertise in this area, and they’ve published results of their meta-analysis that show:

  • Companies with an average of 9.3 engaged employees for every disengaged employee experienced 147% higher EPS vs. competition
  • Companies with an average of only 2.6 engaged employees for every disengaged employee had 2% lower EPS vs. competition

Sounds like a compelling rationale for putting strong strategic emphasis on engagement!

But it’s not that easy. Engagement involves a complex set of interrelated elements including culture, environment, leadership, teamwork, feedback and many other important and often intangible areas.

Balancing strategies in support of these “softer” considerations against the more definitive data around sales, revenue, and expenses can make for some hard resource allocation decisions.

And defining engagement can also be elusive.

Wikipedia says employee engagement is “a property of the relationship between an organization and its employees. An ‘engaged employee’ is defined as one who is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work and so takes positive action to further the organization’s reputation and interests.”

Said another way, it’s about employees feeling they have a personal investment in their work and their company, and that they truly care.

Engagement measurement has become an essential touchpoint for management, and ranges from extensive annual surveys to shorter and more frequent pulse surveys. But knowing what to measure and what to do about it are two areas of ongoing discussion and debate.

Gallup’s Q12 survey asks only 12 questions that get at the heart of engagement. Others like TINYpulse vary the survey length from one question to as many as you want.

Gallup uses these 12 basic questions in their standard survey methodology:

  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 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?

Data from annual surveys that cover a lot of topics can be more difficult to assess and act upon in a timely fashion, so for many companies it make sense to target more frequent pulse surveys that can enable a closer to real-time assessment and response.

Measurement needs to lead to actions that address weaknesses and celebrate achievements, so it’s important to identify areas where improvements are possible. Companies should have a clear action plan ready to respond to the findings. Representation from every department or team helps make implementation happen more effectively.

Regardless of the model that is choses, senior leaders need to know and understand what is happening in the workforce, how it is affecting their business, and how to address identified problems.

Because with better engagement, you can achieve better results.

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