As a decorated corporate soldier, one of my responsibilities was to encourage the troops to participate in the annual staff engagement survey, naively hopeful that the outcomes would culminate in a unified call to action by the leadership team.
Globally, the statistical impact from staff engagement surveys has made marginal gains. Is it because we are all too busy with ‘other stuff’ or is an engaged workforce simply not a top priority?
From my experience, the survey process is typically a management act of corporate obedience versus an eagerly anticipated opportunity to tap into the collective consciousness of the organization. Despite the need for new capability, a changing workforce cohort and a growing army of self-employed workers we seem to have this lackluster regard for the results of staff sentiment. A recent Forbes article, Why your survey isn’t improving employee engagement, says it well.
“Think of an employee survey like you'd think about a blood test at your annual physical exam. The results of a blood test provide lots of data (i.e., blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.) which reveal areas of concern, but it doesn't tell you what's causing the problem or how to fix it. That requires further investigation with your doctor or health coach. Here's the bottom line. An employee engagement survey can be an incredibly powerful tool to improve the employee experience at work – when used appropriately. But a survey alone won't fix anything and can even do harm if done carelessly and without the proper supporting plan of action."
It’s time we did things differently. Firms should be extracting the key themes from the aggregate feedback and asking their staff to openly collaborate on how best to resolve the challenges. Large organizations are good at asking the team for inputs and data, but why aren’t we asking the same people for the “how” we address the challenge?
Employers want employees to be curious, creative, work hard, and understand customer needs. However we fail to take the outputs of our staff surveys and empower the workforce to collaboratively create, vote, ideate, provide resolution and think differently. I’m not talking about a hand selected virtual team to tackle independent issues on their own, I’m proposing organization wide collaboration.
People and Capability leaders are aware of the power of a strong culture of engagement, and usually understand that collaboration has the ability to touch all areas of our business and all employees.
In western society collaboration is the new innovation, and catalyzing a culture of collaboration is fundamental for leadership teams determined to lift employee participation. In the east, the Japanese have mastered the technique of collaboration, called Kaizen. The translation in Japanese is “continuous improvement” and it means that employees are expected to always to be looking at how the company can be improved and how each employee can contribute. It’s effectively an ethos of “what must we do” and there is an expectation between employee and employer; you give us insights and we will do something with them.
The opportunity to collaborate across the organization has been simplified with the introduction of digital engagement tools. According to HRM research, 73% of employees using digital tools reported a positive impact to their productivity and 70% cited improved collaboration.
If the statement ‘an annual survey alone won't fix anything and can even do harm if done carelessly and without the proper supporting plan of action’ rings true then one would deduce that doing something with the outputs is critical. Leveraging modern digital collaboration tools like HunchBuzz may be a good place to start.
Hunchbuzz is an idea management system for crowdsourcing ideas from employees, partners and customers. It’s used globally by organizations of all kinds to manage innovation and drive employee engagement.