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Employee Engagement Surveys: Are They Legit?

Editor’s Note: The author, Dwight Mihalicz, is a subject expert matter on effective management and hosting a free webinar for Flevy’s audience on Empowerment 4.0.   The focus of Empowerment 4.0 is to help managers of managers understand the elements that need to be in place for effective teams.  Most management training focuses on the “soft skills,” whereas the teachings of Empowerment 4.0 are more fundamental and can help managers deal with root-cause issues of why they are not getting the team performance they desire and should be able to expect.  You can sign up for the free webinar here.

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The research proving the importance of employee engagement is overwhelming. Companies with engaged employees are more productive, profitable, and ultimately; successfully engaged employees are more likely to stay, less likely to burn out, and become advocates for the company brand.

For these reasons, organizations go to great lengths to better understand how to improve engagement in their employees. Unfortunately, they often make the mistake of relying too heavily on the results of employee engagement surveys.

The Problem with Employee Engagement Surveys

You’re certainly not alone if you’re disillusioned with employee engagement surveys. The problem is that while these surveys are insightful, they’re not exactly helpful. They will tell you that employees are unhappy about poor communication or lack of collaboration; however, they won’t tell you how to attack the cause of employee disengagement.

To know that your company suffers from high disengagement doesn’t help you cure the disease; it merely tells you just how sick you are. For example, by knowing that 32% of your workforce categorizes themselves as engaged, you still don’t know how to approach the 68% who aren’t. You ask yourself what all these numbers and categories mean, and how or if you can utilize them to improve engagement in your employees.

The truth is that while employee engagement surveys are doing an excellent job of measuring symptoms, they don’t address the underlying disease. And because companies mistakenly only treat the symptoms, they enjoy momentary relief. And like an infection that hasn’t been fully cured, the fever will return.

Measuring Manager Effectivity

While the intentions of employee engagement surveys are right, the data is meaningless without leading us to the base cause. After much research, we know that high employee engagement will always be traced back to the effectivity of the organization’s management.

For employees to be engaged, managers need to manage! High performing organizations ensure that their managers are aligned, collectively working to help achieve strategic objectives. They’re keen on maintaining operations and leading their teams. It requires an accountability and authority framework that is clear and implemented down and across the entire organization.

In measuring the effectiveness of your managers, Effective Managers™ has developed a survey-based on research conducted with the Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa. The Manager Effectiveness Assessment provides a means of assessing the effectiveness of managers on dimensions such as:

  • What percentage of time your managers spend on value-added work
  • How clear your managers are about their accountability for delivering objectives
  • How well your managers recognize their responsibility for managing subordinates

Because the level of employee engagement in your company relies on the effectiveness of your managers, the ultimate goal of assessing their effectiveness is to help managers recognize that they are in fact  accountable for driving engagement by doing their managerial leadership work.

About Dwight Mihalicz

Dwight Mihalicz has over 40 years’ experience helping local, national, and international organizations achieve greater productivity, efficiency, and performance. He is also teaching a 7-week Flevy Executive Learning (FEL) program on effective management called Empowerment 4.0, as well as giving a free webinar by the same title. Sign up for the webinar here.

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