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Article -> Ask the Right Questions to Get Engaged

Date Added: June 2007

Management continuously learns the little guy’s opinion does count, and not just to keep employees satisfied.  Organizations now administer employee questionnaires to establish levels of engagement in their workforce. Engagement is not to be confused with satisfaction which may simply describe how satisfied one is in his or her position. For some, collecting a paycheck in exchange for a minimal amount of effort is enough for satisfaction.
 
Engagement, on the other hand, is the degree to which an employee is willing to help their leader and co-workers, take initiative within the organization and promote the company outside of work. It becomes clear that employee engagement is different from satisfaction in that engagement measures an employee’s commitment to contributing to the organization.
 
The purpose of administering an employee engagement questionnaire is two-fold. First, it measures current levels of engagement in order to understand the general sentiment of an organization’s employees. From this, it establishes gaps in employee engagement and potential areas for improvement.
 
Second, it creates an action plan. This is the area where many organizations fall short in measuring employee engagement. They may do a very good job tracking how interested their employees are, though afterwards, they do not know what to do with the knowledge gained. It is common for this information to be based on the past, and therefore, difficult to extract strategies for improvement. However, a well-worded employee engagement questionnaire identifies gaps and helps create processes for improvement. An AL2A (Ask, Listen, Learn & Act) process is ideal for capturing data related to employee engagement, learning from those results and creating an action plan to align organizational goals and employee needs.
 
Consider the difference in the following two types of questions. ”I am committed to doing quality work” is unlikely to solicit useful feedback because most people believe they should answer yes. Now change that question even slightly, “My fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.” With this rewording, there is a possibility for a wider range of responses.1 These responses may help identify specific functional areas, locations or other groups of employees which are disengaged or underperforming.
 
Organization-wide employee engagement questionnaires are typically administered electronically for confidentiality and convenience. Though it comes with an investment, its benefits certainly outweigh the investment. Of course, this can be rapidly offset by identifying gaps and creating strategies to improve engagement, and subsequently, increasing employee productivity. Employees shown to be emotionally engaged are typically more productive. Higher employee productivity leads to more customers, and customers receiving better service. This equates to higher customer satisfaction and loyalty, resulting in positive retention and increased revenues.
 
The number of engaged people organizations have – rather than satisfied people – is a better determinant to the success of an organization. On average, only 29% of employees are fully engaged at work.2
 
Engaged people have excellent attendance and safety records, outperform others in productivity and profitability, have higher retention rates, and offer greater customer satisfaction. In contrast, more than 50% of employees arrive at work and perform the bare minimum – just enough to sustain employment. These disengaged employees cost companies about $300 billion a year in lost profits and damaged customer relationships.3
 
These statistics demonstrate that effectively managing and measuring employee engagement can add value to your bottom line. A minor investment in an employee engagement questionnaire can drastically affect the bottom line.
 

1 White, Erin. “How Surveying Workers Can Pay Off.” The Wall Street Journal. June 18, 2007.
 
2 Fleming, John, H., Coffman, Curt, & Harter, James K. "Manage Your Human Sigma." Harvard Business Review. July-August 2005: 107-114.
 
3 Ibid.
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