Your Engagement Survey’s Crushing Your Employee Experience

Did you see the one where Sophia (the eldest Golden Girl) starts binge-buying toothbrushes? And Dorothy (her daughter) realizes she’s convinced herself the near-eternal supply of toiletries will inoculate her against mortality?

Golden Girls

It’s funny.

Also a little misguided. Sophia assumes as long as a toothbrush is there to be used, the universe will keep her protected.

But the job of a toothbrush is, at best, to protect us from gingivitis. Not so much death.

And yet. I see organizations doing an equally misguided (but definitely not funny) thing with their employee engagement survey

They’re being lulled into a false sense of safety. Believing the running of an annual engagement survey will protect them from disengagement.

And yet, engagement is in a real slump.

And we must remember. The job of a survey is simply to measure. Not to repair.

An engagement survey is a tool. Like a hammer. Use a hammer to hang a nail that holds a picture, and you have wall art. But use a hammer to open a bottle of wine, and you have a helluva mess on your hands.

Friends, we have a helluva mess on our hands. And the employee experience is glum.

The employee engagement survey is a means of measuring sentiment. Over time. With statistical validity. It’s an essential means of gaging progress (or lack of). Of identifying hot spots – problem areas.

But too many companies are trying to use this tool of measurement – which offer some basic, static feedback – to build a meaningful action plan. To change – not just measure – employee engagement.

But building an action plan should be active.

Building an action plan should be active.

It should be driven by dynamic dialog – by back and forth, asking and listening. Wondering, probing, simplifying. Choosing together

The current approach is misinformed. And slow. Static and anonymous, it offers data, but no opportunities for leaders to probe. To explore. To understand why something is a problem. And how to repair it. And as leaders slice and dice and analyze, employees assume their responses landed in a black hole

And the least engaged will leave before a single action is taken. Or worse, they’ll stay. And rot the apples around them.

So what’s the fix?

It’s an Activation Blueprint. A clear, simple, quick-hit action plan that presents solutions today that can be implemented tomorrow. In increments. To drive progress.

We’re fans of our Activation Framework (below) – focusing on easy-to-implement ideas that enable our teams to deliver great work, develop new skills, connect to community and customer, and thrive – be well, whole, and balanced.

But choose your own. Choose what feels most urgent, most meaningful for your organization.

Bring some people together. Ask direct questions about what’s working, what’s not, and where there are opportunities to improve. To unlock.

Capture ideas. Listen, probe, imagine. But do not defend, correct, or shut down.

Then just implement something small. See if it works. If it does, keep going. If it doesn’t? Try something different.

Employee engagement is measured over months. But the employee experience in moments.

Don’t hide behind the statistical validity of a survey that can only offer hindsight perspective.

Take the reins. Get active in driving the employee experience.

Related: Employee Engagement Isn’t Enough