There are several attempts in many organizations to improve the engagement scores and get into the best employer top ranges. The intention is great but the way we choose to improve is deeply flawed. Just as free and fair elections are critical in a democracy, the engagement surveys have to be without negative consequences. I heard from a friend that in his organization, under tremendous pressure from top leadership, the managers started a rumor just before the engagement survey was rolled out that it wasn’t anonymous. In light of this rumor, the score was high as no one wanted to jeopardise their careers, but engagement WAS low.
What we seem to forget is that the engagement score is a gauge, it tells you what’s going well and what needs to be fixed. Fixing the gauge is like fixing the thermometer and not the fever !!
There is an old saying that “Speech is silver and silence is golden”, but in the corporate world when employees remain silent, it’s cause for worry. The popular mistake leaders make is, assuming that no feedback or just positive feedback means people are engaged. In engagement surveys and other feedback forums, silence is dangerous. It could mean that people are uncomfortable stating the truth or that they don’t care enough to give feedback. One of the things that I always urge new employees during their orientation is to speak up and share feedback, suggestions freely, irrespective of where they sit on the hierarchy.
It’s important that employees are heard and they know that they can speak up without any consequences. Very often I have seen managers don’t like escalations or don’t listen enough. If you don’t like solving people issues and if you are not deeply interested in people’s lives and careers, don’t become a people manager. Just stick to your domain and remain a contributor. Also organizations need to assess this competency before promoting great “doers” into “managers” :).
Not attending meetings or townhalls, not filling out the engagement survey, not wanting to be part of team outings, not providing feedback are all telltale signs of disengagement and as my guru Venki would say, by the time an employee starts thinking of resigning, it’s too late.
Now there are also engagement improvement drives where certain things are done just before the engagement survey is rolled out – hiring a big batch of new employees, as new employees usually are highly engaged, or picnics or movie outings or special recognition events or a promotion drive…. Hey, all these are fixing the gauge, not the underlying disease. If you are genuinely interested in improving engagement then work on the basics – create an open transparent environment, have fair employee practices and hire/train great genuine managers who connect and communicate a lot. And don’t fix the engagement score, use it, listen to what your employees are saying and engage in a dialogue to improve your scores.
And when you encounter silence, definitely check the reasons for it, by breaking the silence atleast with your speech.
Also read my previous blog on this topic Are you engaged ?