Posts Tagged ‘david iannelli’

The limitations of the employee engagement survey

posted by Scott McKenzie

We Brits are easily pleased. After an admittedly long and wet Spring, a couple of days of sunshine has palpably seen the mood of the nation improve.

I have noticed it in my colleagues and clients. People are smiling and laughing more. A lot more in fact. People seem more motivated, enthusiastic, happy. I have just come from a meeting where my colleagues were as passionate and engaged as I’ve ever seen them. It was great. Now clearly I could isolate that to the motivational factor of working alongside me but I’m guessing that this would be an erroneous conclusion…

It has got me thinking about the way we measure engagement.  It has become a boom industry. Many reputable research companies sell products that claim to make a direct link between communications and employee engagement. The models used are impressively engineered – seemingly simplifying the complex picture that is engagement.  Making convincing claims about how if you pull this lever just a bit more, you will get this improved result.

Beware. In my view, it is the old story of the alchemist trying to turn lead into gold. Many of the models used are based on some frankly very dodgy assumptions and an even dodgier reliance on pseudo-science. 

For those who are profitting from this industry that may be heresy. But I’m afraid it’s true. The best you can demonstrate is a correlation between some communications activity and an increase in engagement. The reality is that there are so many variables which impact on how engaged an employee feels.

It could be the relationship they have with their manager, or their colleagues. It could be how much they are paid. It could be whether they feel valued or recognised by leadership.It could be the nature of their work – do they feel they’re doing work which has genuine meaning?

And yes, it could be affected by something as simple as the weather.

Human beings are inherently complex. Making the simple connection between communications and engagement makes sense at a conceptual level. But we should see it for what it is. Just one of the variables.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t measure engagement. We should.  Indeed we are not averse to selling surveys ourselves. But for us the value is in genuinely using the data to inform your decision-making process. Employee engagement surveys should be a speedy, low-key way of quickly identifying potential risks and opportunities… Although we should be incredibly cautious about acting on the data alone. You will only get a meaningful picture of what is really going on by speaking and listening to some real-life people.

Which reminds me. My H+K colleague David Iannelli and I are talking about this very topic at the CIPR’s measurement summit on 13 June. Hope to talk to you there… and I hope the sun will be shining!