Caught in the Engagement Survey Spin Cycle?

Move From Fruitless Manager Action Plans to Real Solutions

By Sherri Merbach Managing Director, C-Suite Analytics | March 12, 2017

Employee engagement in the U.S. is a mess. Gallup tells us only 32% of our employees are engaged, and that figure has hardly budged over 15 years. Worse, Deloitte says we are about to spend $1.53 billion a year to "fix" it. Unless we get smarter, we'll be flushing that fortune instead of fixing.

It gets worse. Again according to Gallup, those remaining 68% are either sleepwalking or sabotaging. So unless your company is different, two-thirds of your employees aren't giving their all. One has to wonder: How much better would our economy be if we solved employee engagement? What if we found the turnkey solution to getting our employees to work their best?

It's time we took a hard look in the mirror and stop blaming disengagement on low wages or video games. The problem is we are all playing follow the leader, doing what other companies do and expecting better results. Let's start with some heavily-researched truths.

Employee Surveys Don't Solve Anything

Engagement surveys and exit surveys provide data but don't give us solutions. Left on our own, we decide that the super-fix to more recognition is employee appreciation week so we bring in food and a dunk tank. Or we name an employee of the month which irritates the others who really know who pulls the work. For engagement, no one is accountable to make their scores better…and few companies actually set a goal. They are pleased instead to beat last year's score or beat the benchmark. Beating a benchmark in this case means scoring a hair better than mediocre, against competition that's as baffled as we are for a true fix.

Exit Surveys are worse. We've surveyed 8,300 HR execs on whether their exit surveys have made their companies better. Twenty said yes for a winning percentage of .0024. There is now a book that advises to never tell the truth during exit surveys, to say instead you needed a career change. In fact the most popular answer on exit surveys is "better opportunity". What the heck does that mean? And how do we fix it?

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