How to Measure Employee Engagement (Please Don’t!)

Please Don’t Measure Employee Engagement!

I keep getting the same request over and over again:

“Tim, how do we measure employee engagement?”

It’s an obvious question, especially coming from a manager. How can you manage something if you don’t know where it stands and where it’s trending? So, here’s an obvious answer:

Make your employees wear brain-scanning devices. These can be cleverly disguised as free headsets and Apple Watches. Collect data at random points throughout the day and plot it against scientifically validated standards for high, medium, and low engagement. As a bonus point, you can monitor your employees’ whereabouts, time spent in the bathroom, and other engagement-related variables.

I hope you find this idea absurd and offensive, not just expensive and complicated. By the way, if you shop for a serious engagement measurement solution, you will see that, like plastic surgery, all of them are invasive, expensive and complicated.

So, maybe that’s not what nature intended. Perhaps there is a simpler, faster, and better way to a healthy, well-run workplace.

First, what is engagement? If you manage people, employee engagement means one thing only: do people want to work for you? In other words, do they share your goals? Do they fully contribute their skills? Are they willing to work their tails off to get results?

These are important questions to ask your direct reports. Better yet, build a relationship with them, so they will tell you without being asked. Getting the answers case-by-case, issue-by-issue, and person-by-person is essential. But converting this knowledge into a single number is difficult, unnecessary, and distracting.

What will you do with such a number? Are you looking to engage your workforce or to pass the blame onto them? Engagement is a measure of your relationship with your people. The only way to improve it is to understand and resolve your differences, preferably as soon as they crop up. And that starts with you.

Are you comfortable asking and answering tough questions? Are you willing to show your ignorance and vulnerability in front of your subordinates? These are your metrics. The more resistance you feel toward clearing the air, the higher the chances that those are the real blocks to engagement in your company and your team.

Data is a manager’s best friend. Never settle for an opinion where you can have a stat. Measure productivity, quality, timeliness, customer satisfaction, growth, profitability, market opportunity, and so on. If you can’t sit down and talk to it—measure it!

When dealing with people, impersonal observation won’t do. Engage with your people in any way you can. Online. In groups. One-on-one. Get personal. Involve them in goal setting and decision making. Share knowledge. Build trust. Then measure all of your company’s vital stats. I guarantee you they will go up.

If you measure employee engagement, then you might like my book, because it will save you a ton of money!

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Written by

Tim Eisenhauer is a co-founder of Axero Solutions, a leading intranet software vendor. He's also a bestselling author of Who the Hell Wants to Work for You? Mastering Employee Engagement. Tim’s been featured in Fortune, Forbes, TIME, Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur, CNBC, Today, and other leading publications.


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