Employee Engagement – Don’t Make the Wrong Assumptions


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So you’ve selected a vendor and conducted an employee engagement study. You’ve even compared the results to the global benchmark and presented the findings to your CEO and his team.

They were all concerned and reiterated the importance of this program and how critical the well-being of employees is to the future of the organization.

The data was shared with all managers, and guidelines as to how to address the gaps were distributed promptly.

And here you are a year later and nothing changed. Nothing significant, at least. Your CEO is not happy and you are about to venture down the same road again.

Well, stop for a moment.

Ask yourself, what went wrong the first time? Even your employee engagement survey company confirmed you were doing all the right things, so why didn’t the needle move?

You operated on the wrong assumptions and therefore you ended up with the wrong outcome.

False Assumption 1 – “We need hard data. What’s our engagement score?” You focused on conducting the survey with all the statistical rigor you can apply. In reality, this focus distracted you from the big picture. The real problem was not availability of data. The problem was a lack of willingness, skills and sense of urgency.

False Assumption 2 – “Share the data and they will act.” Your managers are not waiting for the data. Simply sharing the data will not move them to act.

False Assumption 3 – “They are all professionals. They can handle it.” No, they can’t. Employee engagement data is personal. Managers get insulted and even offended. They will likely look for excuses not to take action because they still see the results as a bad scorecard. After all, they are human too.

False Assumption 4 – “They know what needs to be done.” Wrong. If they did they would have done it by now. Managers often lack the skills and capacity to take action. They were, after all, part of the problem. Becoming part of the solution requires more than data.

False Assumption 5 – “We’re better than industry benchmarks.” This is one of the biggest illusions. Benchmarks serve one purpose and that is to slow down action. Handing the organization a benchmark is guiding them to the wrong conclusion. Managers see it and say, “OK, we’re within the range. It’s not too bad,” and consequently deemphasize the need to make changes.

False Assumption 6 – “The CEO signed the letter.” Seriously, you are going to go with this argument? How long have you been in a corporate environment? Just because the CEO set a certain strategy does not mean that it was followed.

The Path to an Effective Employee Engagement Program

Any employee engagement program must start with a vision of the desired performance – not the study. Next, you must ensure people have the tools to execute it, and then seek to understand where you currently stand.

While you’re at it, throw away the benchmark. Stop providing the organization with excuses not to act fast.

Here is a simple fact: For years, Gallup has shown that the average engagement level is about 27%. The rest of the employees are either disengaged or actively disengaged.

So the question is, do you really accept that your most important customer will be served by an indifferent or cynical employee just because this is what the benchmark says? Do you really plan to win in the highly competitive marketplace with less than 30% of your employees keen on winning?

Winning organizations commit to exceptional performance in every interaction and every program – no exceptions. They do not provide excuses or loopholes that allow for cynical employees to exist within their ranks.

You shouldn’t either.

At the end of the day you can’t afford to have disengaged employees if you plan to win customers’ hearts and budgets. They will not tolerate such employees – and neither should you.

Lior Arussy
One of the world’s authorities on customer experience, customer centricity, and transformation, Lior Arussy delivers results. His strategic framework converts organizations from product- to customer-centricity. It is drawn from his work with some of the world’s leading brands: Mercedes-Benz, Royal Caribbean, Delta Air Lines, MasterCard, Novo Nordisk, Walmart and more.Arussy is also the author of seven books, including Next Is Now (May 2018)


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