What drives it?
Inspiring leadership! The dynamics that inspire employees to go above and beyond the call of duty are fundamentally different from those that make them feel good about the company and want to stay. Conditions of employment such as pay, benefits and the physical work environment can increase employee pride and morale, reduce turnover and cause employees to recommend the company. But these "hygiene factors" have limited impact on employee motivation and organizational performance. Training employees, giving them the resources they need and providing them quality systems and processes also are important and should create a more efficient and effective operation. But the key to unleashing the enormous energy and full potential of employees is inspiring leadership. A world-class engagement survey must measure the specific leadership behaviors that inspire employees to go above and beyond the call of duty. This is the essence of engagement!
How is it measured?
Since employee engagement is energy, this is precisely what an engagement survey should measure. The survey questions should target specific and observable behaviors that demonstrate employee energy and motivation - i.e., going above and beyond the call of duty. They should ask about showing initiative, going to great lengths to please the customer, striving for excellence, taking ownership of responsibilities, being creative and innovative, etc. An organization that wishes to unleash employee energy must first measure employee energy!
When employee engagement became a hot topic, most survey firms raced to re-brand their services, but few re-thought the concept. Even the world’s largest and most well-known consulting firms simply poured old job satisfaction wine into a new bottle labeled engagement. An "employee engagement index" based on survey questions that merely ask about overall satisfaction, intent to stay, company pride and recommending the company does not truly measure engagement. Organizations that use such an index may believe they are creating a more energized, motivated and performance-driven workforce and culture ... when all they are doing is making their employees happier and less likely to leave. This approach will not put an organization on the road to increased performance, competitiveness and success!
What is it?
Employee engagement is energy! Focused and productive energy. Engaged employees are energized employees who go above and beyond the call of duty to provide exceptional customer service, produce superior quality work, show initiative, be creative, take ownership of responsibilities, etc. These critical behaviors set a business apart from the competition and ensure its success.
Einstein got it right indeed with his brilliant insight that "Everything is energy and that's all there is to it." And so it is with employee engagement. But most "employee engagement" surveys focus on loyalty, pride, morale, etc., ignoring energy - the most essential part of the equation. This is a grave and costly error. An employee may be happy with his or her pay and benefits, be proud to wear the company-branded t-shirt and have no intention of leaving ... while barely lifting a finger on the job! In stark contrast, a highly energetic and ambitious employee who must cope with inadequate systems, insufficient resources and little or no career development may be intolerably frustrated and easily lured away by a competitor. What organization can afford to have their most energized talent head for the exits, leaving behind their least energized colleagues? But this is precisely the danger of a survey system that confuses engagement with loyalty or morale and fails to identify the key drivers of each.