6 Ways to Avoid Bombing Your Next Employee Engagement Survey

Three hundred billion dollars.

Within the U.S. workforce, Gallup estimates that this is the cost in lost productivity alone, according to their thirty-year Employee Engagement Index.

How much of that money is your company responsible for?

ANSWER: Too much.

Today we’re going to explore six strategies to make sure your organization doesn’t bomb its next employee engagement survey:1. Participation isn’t the same as engagement. On a breakfast table, the chicken participated – but the pig was engaged. Which category do you people fit in? Here’s the distinction:

To participate is to take – to engage is to pledge.
To participate is to take a look around – to engage is to take purposeful action.
To participate is to show up for you – to engage is to share with others.

This makes participation more of a one-way street, and engagement more of a give and take exchange.

To assure you have more of the latter, try this: Don’t conclude your blog posts and social media updates with a thank you – conclude with a call to action. Solicit engagement with a question, a challenge or a fill in the blank exercise. Give people ample space to express themselves on your platform.

Then, keep the loop open to allow other people in your tribe to contribute to the ongoing discussion. That’s the kind of engagement involves risk taking, spontaneity, socially supported co-creation.

Remember: People who participate are helpful additions; people who engage are vital components. Which one would you rather have at your organization?

2. Make yourself more bounceable. Getting people to volunteer information and open up to you is a big challenge – in business and in life. After all, people don’t want to say something stupid, rock the boat, get eaten alive or risk getting canned.

They need reassurance that their ideas will be greeted with a welcoming heart in a safe, honest, question-friendly environment.

The secret is to lay a foundation of affirmation. To instantly reassure people that you appreciate their ideas, regardless of their value. A few Phrases That Payses include, “I’m glad you spoke up,” “Thank you for letting me know,” “I had no idea – thanks for telling me,” and “I’m so glad we had this conversation.”

Think of it this way: Buddhists monks never ring bells – the invite the bells to sound. If your people are disengaged, maybe it’s time to stop ringing and start inviting. Maybe it’s time to stop listening and start leaving people heard. And maybe it’s time to stop asking questions and start questioning answers. Are you encouraging people to save their opinion for later or allow them say the essential thing that is within them?

3. Inspire people with a vision of what they can contribute. There’s a great Counting Crows song that says, “All love wants – is to be believed in.” In the same vain, all your people need – is to feel needed. And your mission is to show them that you’re conscious of their capability to contribute.

More importantly, how that contribution ripples back into their lives – not just the life of the organization. Because without that sense of reciprocity, people labor in vain. And they don’t engage because they’re too busy wondering if the work they’re doing will disappear into the corporate ether.

On the other hand, when you stop looking over people’s shoulders – and when you make it safe for them to experiment – you demonstrate trust in their abilities. And that’s when brilliance gets unlocked. That’s when you evoke people’s capacity to dream. And that’s when they taste the sweet liberation of what’s possible. All because you believed in their untapped potential for growth.

Ultimately, when people view their work as a gateway to something bigger – not just the daily grind – they actually want to come in every day. And they engage because they’re treated as unique individuals, not as a means to organizational ends. Are you actually building people, or just building your own dream and using people as bricks?

4. Create a setting in which everyone’s gifts can flourish. Followable leaders are the ones who are confident enough to surround themselves by strong teammates and not be intimidated by their strengths.

On the other hand, when you disable people from exercising their gifts, they stop operating out of their core. And the work they do becomes stale, mediocre and unengaging.

The challenge is to listen for greatness to show up in each person. Then, to attend to whatever surfaces with deep democracy. Ultimately, by digesting each other’s differences, and acknowledging the diversity of consciousness, you inspire them to remain engaged.

That’s what my mentor taught me: Your have to give people permission to be. You have to allow them to publicly display their successes. And you have to let go of being the life of the party so you can start bringing other people to life at the party. How are you meeting the most critical needs of your people?

5. Reinforce social belongingness. Kalamazoo College conducted a study a few years ago that examined feelings of belongingness as a predictor of engagement of student leaders. Thousands of students surveyed proved that the likelihood of their willingness to engage was directly correlated to their perceived sense of belonging.

How are you reinforcing that with your people?

Because the simplest way to make someone feel like they belong is to actually make them belong. Take Metallica, for example. A few years ago, they began searching for a new bass player. And after weeks of auditions, they finally decided on a guy named Robert Trujillo.

But the cool part was, instead of just throwing him a welcome party; Metallica offered him a one million dollar advance for joining the band.

Think he was engaged? Think he felt like he belonged? You better believe it.

They put their money where their mouth was, affirmed the value he brought to the table and said, “This is how much it means to us that you become part of our family.” Will you let your world open up and lovingly swallow the people who matter most, or will their efforts be another silent symphony?

6. Reinforce people’s sense of thee. In a worldwide survey to test employee engagement, Towers Perrin found that an organization’s symbol or logo was a key indicator, as it they are visible manifestations of pride.

Not unlike the first-round draft pick who holds up his shiny new uniform in front of all the cameras and says, “I’m proud to wear the Tiger Jersey,” when people’s work invokes a sense of gratification, they engage.

Take Anheuser Busch, for example. People who work there don’t brag to their friends that they work for “some” beer company, or even “a” beer company. They work for thee beer company. The big mama. The grand daddy. The King of Beers.

Your challenge is to pinpoint the vehicle of your superiority. To repeatedly articulate your “est.” As in:

Craziest. Dizziest. Fanciest. Gutsiest. Heaviest. Juiciest. Knottiest. Laziest. Purest. Quietest. Rarest.

Think about the one thing your organization does that nobody else can touch – and reinforce it daily. Your people will want to attach themselves with that. What are you the world heavyweight champion of?

ULTIMATELY: Engagement isn’t something you just decide to implement into your organization.

It isn’t a process.
It isn’t a strategic initiative.
It isn’t a tool for driving profits.
It isn’t a method for growing membership.

Engagement needs to be a living, breathing component of your organization’s constitution.

How will you avoid bombing your next employee engagement survey?

For the list called, “27 Affirmations to Prepare Yourself to Listen,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor

Never the same speech twice.

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