Do You Care About How Engaged Your Team Is? Part 1cahide
Written by: Cahide Akkuzu
Reading time: 7 minutes
Many leaders see employee engagement as a top priority for their company. These leaders are aware of the clear link between employee engagement and business results. Here are a few striking statistics that support this link:
- A study by Deloitte found that companies with high employee engagement have a turnover increase rate of 2-3 times higher than companies with average employee engagement.
- The same research by Deloitte shows that companies with high employee engagement have 57% more productive employees and 87% lower turnover rates.
There are also other statistics that show that employee engagement is a real issue for many companies:
- Glassdoor, a company that gives employees the opportunity to evaluate their employer, found that only 54 percent of employees recommend their company as a place to work.
- Gallup’s research, covering 30 million people worldwide for over 30 years, shows that 87% of employees have low employee engagement.
These statistics show that the actions of many companies do not support the level of importance that should be given to employee engagement.
Deloitte defines employee engagement as:
‘’Employee engagement typically refers to an employee’s job satisfaction, loyalty, and inclination to expend discretionary effort toward organizational goals. It predicts individual performance and operates at the most fundamental levels of the organization —individual and line—where the most meaningful impact can be made’’
As a leader, it has become more and more important to understand what it is that really drives employee engagement. Organizations are flattened, giving people less time with their direct managers. Younger employees have increased the demand for rapid job rotation, accelerated leadership and continuous feedback. The work environment has become highly complex with various ways of working like flexible work, hybrid work, or various remote work models. Changes related to the way of working and the demographics of employees forces us to get a better understanding of how we can increase employee engagement.
As a leader, you have to understand that your human resource is the key to success. No matter what type of business you are running, if your employees are not actively engaged in supporting your mission, you will not achieve the level of success you desire.
So, what makes an employee commit to the organizational vision, mission and goals, and sacrifice their time with family and friends to come to work and fully engage themselves every day? A study by Glassdoor listed the three factors that are mostly impacting employee engagement, in order of importance:
- Company culture and values
- Leadership competencies of top managers
- Career opportunities offered by the company
Interestingly, the paycheck offered by the company is not among the three most important factors. On the other hand, it is remarkable that leadership competencies of top managers play such an important role!
Seeing employee engagement as a top priority is not enough. Focusing the whole organization on this priority is what makes a real difference. The importance leaders place on improving employee engagement in each and every action and decision that they take has an impact. Many companies measure employee engagement and loyalty every two years. Waiting for the results, having long processes in place to determine the root causes and to agree on actions and budgets, unfortunately does not work! Increasing employee engagement is not the job of human resources, it’s not something that leaders can delegate to someone else! Leaders at all levels of management in the organization need to take responsibility and must have an understanding of what they can do in their day to day interactions with their teams to increase employee engagement.
If you genuinely care about how engaged your team is, you do not need to wait for the next employee engagement survey results! Gallup researchers spent decades writing and testing hundreds of questions, because their wording and order mean everything when it comes to accurately measuring engagement. Gallup has studied survey results from more than 35 million employees around the world. Their research yielded Gallup’s Q12 survey: the 12 questions that measure the most important elements of employee engagement. I applied it and found it to work! In this article, I would like to introduce you to Gallup’s Q12 Survey, the reasoning behind the questions and at the end I will give you tips how to immediately use the survey in a practical way.
Gallup grouped these 12 questions into four categories.
Category 1: The first two questions are considered the most critical, as they focus on the basic needs of employees that enable them to do their jobs successfully. If employees don’t have these two needs met, it causes them stress because they are already at a significant disadvantage in being able to perform their jobs successfully. By having clear job descriptions that were developed with employee input, involving first-line supervisors on a daily basis and ensuring that all necessary equipment and materials are readily available, management will be off to an excellent start in ensuring engagement and loyalty.
Question 1 – I know what is expected of me at work.
Gallup makes the point that having clear expectations is the most basic need of employees. If they don’t understand what is expected of them, employees will fill in the blanks themselves. Just because managers think employees should know what is expected of them doesn’t mean they do. Disappointments in performance appraisals are often caused by the mismatch between the expectations of the manager and the perceived expectations of the employees. The most important responsibility of the managers is to clearly state what they expect from their employees and to define clear indicators.
Question 2 – I have the materials and equipment to do my work right.
Along with having clear expectations, employees need the resources to do their job right. If they’re lacking the tools to perform their work well, they will have a hard time performing their work well. When managers shortcut resources, it sends a confusing message that the work and the employees aren’t that valuable.
Category 2: The questions in this category assess the contribution of employees to the whole of the organization and how much they feel they are valued. This is key to building a strong system of employee engagement. If an employee does not feel that they have a significant role to play in the organization, that their work is meaningful and that they are personally adding value, they soon lose interest. Employees expect their talents and potential to be noticed and taken into account, they want to be able to express their opinions, they want their contributions to be visible and they want to be appreciated. This is true for all employees and in my experience this is even more important for the younger generations that entered the workforce. A few words said in appreciation, especially from superiors, can actually go a long way in boosting employee morale and engagement.
Question 3 – At work, I can do what I do best every day.
Research shows that when employees have the opportunity to use their strengths every day, they can create a mutual win-win environment. Employees’ use of their strengths increases their self-confidence and enables them to reveal their full potential. There are gains in qualify of life, job satisfaction, creativity, positive interactions with coworkers, productivity, profitability, quality of work and job retention. Employee strengths are the most valuable assets of workplaces, but many workplaces aren’t utilizing them to the fullest.
Question 4 – In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
Employees want their work to be noticed and appreciated by their managers on a regular basis. When managers ignore or don’t acknowledge their contributions, their engagement suffers.
Question 5 – My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
It is very important for employees to know that there is someone at work who cares about them. This boosts their self-confidence and generates trust, openness, and connection. Words are not enough for this. Managers need to show that they care and value them.
Question 6 – There is someone at work who encourages my development.
Gallup research shows that employees are more committed to companies that allow them to grow and develop. They are actually expecting it. This is an important criteria when deciding which company to work for. In order to compete for and keep talent, workplaces must create pro-growth environments in which managers encourage meaningful development.
Category 3: The questions in this category assess the “fit” between the employee and the organization. Do they have a sense of belonging with like-minded individuals and teams? Are their own values in harmony with those of the company and their teammates? Since most of the time of the employees is spent in the workplace, it is important that they feel a strong sense of belonging. They want to identify strongly with the company, and if this is made easy for them, they will respond positively with increased engagement.
Question 7 – At work, my opinions seem to count.
Employees want to see that their ideas are cared for and considered. They want their views to be heard, evaluated and if it makes sense, implemented. Managers who don’t take the time to ask opinions or put new ideas into practice are closing the doors to collaboration, innovation, and engagement.
Question 8 – The mission or purpose of my organization makes me feel my job is important.
Employees want their work to be meaningful to them. If they cannot establish an emotional connection with the mission of the organization, their motivation and commitment drops. Feeling that their work helps the organization achieve its mission increases their engagement.
Question 9 – My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
Employees want to see their teammates put in the same effort as they do. Engagement suffers when not all team members contribute equally or excellently, or when just one or two team members carry the workload of the team. Employees want their colleagues to deliver quality work too.
Question 10 – I have a best friend at work.
Research shows that when employees report having a best friend at work—not their only best friend, but a best friend that they would describe as more than a good friend—then workplace engagement increases. It is good for the soul—and the job—when workers have a best friend at work.
Category 4: Finally, employees have to feel that they are going to be given opportunities to grow and develop with the company. There is nothing worse for an employee than the feeling of being trapped in a dead-end job, with no chance of growth or advancement. When a company abandons an employee in this manner, disengagement occurs very quickly.
Question 11 – In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
Employees expect opportunities to grow in meaningful ways. They feel supported in their growth when someone talks to them about their progress—where they have been, where they are now, where they are going. Employees want to be given regular feedback and direction on their development. This makes them feel supported and increases their commitment and engagement.
Question 12 – This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.
If you receive a negative or low response to this question, you either do not offer enough opportunities in terms of development and learning opportunities, or the opportunities you offer are not valuable enough or your employees are not aware of these opportunities.
Ask your employees to answer these questions on a scale from “1: strongly disagree” to “5: strongly agree”. If you get predominantly low scores on questions, be sure to dig one layer deeper and ask your employees to evaluate this question:
Question 13 – If I have a new idea that can help our organization, I know how to communicate it to management.
How does an employee surface ideas or concerns to management? How do they actually engage? Are there clear channels and mechanisms in your organization? Has organizational fear of management been removed? These are just some of the things you need to be thinking about as you go about creating an environment in your organization that is conducive to employee engagement. One of the most important factors reducing employee engagement is the inability of employees to make their voices heard. This question shows how open your company, and therefore your managers, are to criticism and innovations, and how much they have opened their feedback channels to serve this purpose. If your employees cannot make their voices heard, or their voices are not taken into consideration, this causes them to show various types of resistance behavior. This causes inefficiency and inevitably impacts business results. For more on this please read my blog: ‘’Deep Democracy: A Powerful Approach To Resolve Tension And Conflict!’’ link: https://www.contextprofessionals.com/en/deep-democracy-a-powerful-approach-to-relove-tension-and-conflict/
Everyone starts a new job highly motivated dreaming about what contributions they would be making. Frustration starts when employees express their opinions in various ways and are not heard. I hear employees saying: “I told them, but it was ignored!” or “My suggestions are taken as criticism!” This leads employees to shut down, build up walls, become silent and withhold important contributions. Employees go into passive resistance. Just think about how much intellectual wisdom is lost for both sides.
One of the situations that I frequently encounter is that the manager comments on their relationship with the team as “Everything is fine, we talk about everything easily”, while the employee in question explains their relationship with the manager as: “Our manager wants everything to be done as they wish and everyone to be like them, they do not give us the space to express ourselves”. This situation becomes very obvious with poor employee engagement surveys results. A good career step that starts with dreams can unfortunately end with lack of engagement due to leadership weaknesses. As a leader, get out of your comfort zone, show a different approach, and genuinely care about the engagement level of your team members. Give them more space for their views, prepare an environment where they can express themselves comfortably, listen to them and hear their messages even if you disagree with them! Get started now, use the Gallup 12 Questions, without waiting for the next employee engagement survey!
You may be leading a small department, or you may be an executive of a very large company. Be curious about the assessment results of your direct reports to the 12 Gallup Questions. You can plan this step right away in your next one-on-one meeting with them.
- Sincerely explain your purpose. Explain that this activity may help uncover topics to discuss.
- Explain that the 12 Questions were developed by Gallup researchers based on interviews with over 35 million employees worldwide, and it is used to assess engagement.
- Describe the process and answer all questions they might have before they take the assessment.
- Send them the 12 Questions so they take time to think and answer. Ask them to score. 1=Strongly Disagree to 5=Strongly Agree. Ask them to answer these questions sincerely and
- Book time with your direct report to evaluate the results together.
It’s one thing to take the survey, it’s another to do something with it. Evaluate the results together and find some actionable next steps. The most important rule to follow is to never ever get defensive! I know it’s hard, but don’t get defensive even if you think that they are unfair to you or that you have been wronged! Agree mutually not to use the word ‘but’ during that conversation. Just listen with curiosity, ask clarifying questions and ask for examples to understand their perspective better. Mutually prohibit using the word “but” during that interview! Agree on some next steps that will improve your relationship with your employee and increase their engagement. Show your interest and take responsibility!
In Part 2 of this article, I will give you tips about how to increase employee engagement.
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