Employee Engagement Data is Like Financials, Necessary to Running a Business

Employee Engagement Data is Like Financials, Necessary to Running a Business

It’s a rare executive that would lead a company without looking at the financials.  “Flying blind” on feeling and assumptions about how the business is doing financially would be ruinous.  Yet most business leaders do just that with their people.

Most businesses survey their customers regularly on their experiences, satisfaction levels and what can be improved.  Customers can be brutally honest.  For them there is no downside to their honesty, only the chance of better future results or service.  Companies that get client feedback pay a price for that negligence, in negative reviews, lost revenue and future new clients missed.

It’s the same with our company’s employees.  When employees have a poor experience, it shows in the same ways:  negative reviews, lost revenue and new customer opportunities missed.  Richard Branson believes “Take care of your employees, and they’ll take care of your business. It’s as simple as that.”  Yet our actions as leaders speak louder than words.

The best feedback is honest, timely and actionable.  But most companies only ask for feedback when an employee leaves if at all, so it is certainly not timely or actionable.  Or HR asks employees to do surveys which may or may not be confidential, reducing the level of honesty to the level of trust that employees have in HR to protect them from potential negative repercussions.  That is often not worth the risk.  Clients won’t get fired, but employees might.

If we want honesty, we must remove the possibility of penalties by making feedback really, truly anonymous.  I talked with Tom McCabe who owns InfoQuest Survey Company, which has one of the few employee survey systems that guarantees anonymity in such a way that even InfoQuest doesn’t know who said what.  This enables companies to get real feedback, not platitudes.  Getting the real story reduces a company’s exposure to employees leaving and the headache to recruit and replace them when a critical position is suddenly vacant.  But it’s up to the company to use that feedback.

Unfortunately, a lot of companies send out employee surveys, and then nothing changes.  Imagine how clients would feel if they were asked what could be made better, then nothing happened.  Would that create some frustration?  Tom pointed out to me that engagement surveys without action decreases trust, and I could not agree more.  What increases trust is, the transparent communication of both the survey results and subsequently what is now going to change.

We wouldn’t lead our companies without looking at the financials.  We wouldn’t ignore our customers feedback and experiences.  Why would anyone ignore the people that have the most timely and accurate information in our business about what can be improved?  Because we may not like what we see.  Employee retention increases when employees have good reasons to stay, and those reasons can be found when we ask.  By not evaluating the engagement and recommendations of our staff with hard data, we’re flying blind.


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