Why engagement surveys should focus on team members

Merel Wijnands

The most successful engagement surveys use team member engagement survey questions insights as a basis for discussion and action at team level.

Why engagement surveys should focus on teams

Employee and customer engagement are good predictors of organisational performance. Engaged employees are passionate about their work, and passionate employees take better care of their customers. The direct result is that customers are likely to increase their spending with the company. In other words, passionate and engaged employees increase a company’s value.

There is little doubt that hard figures and traditional KPIs still remain important, but in today’s fast paced world organisations also need to know what is happening with employees and their engagement in work. Without it, organisations are operating in the dark.

If companies really care about the financials and numbers, they should invest in measuring employee engagement and taking actions to increase it. From experience we’ve seen that in order for engagement surveys to create maximum impact, they need to focus on measuring and taking action at the team level.

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Direct vs Indirect engagement influencers

When looking at the influencers of engagement, one can usually split the influencers into two broad categories: direct and indirect.

Direct influencers of engagement are predominantly the team, the work and immediate managers. This can include contact with team members, how good managers are in motivating and communicating, workload, work challenges and opportunity for growth, role clarity and co-operation between individuals. In this instance the influencers are much more on the micro level.

Why measure engagement

Comparatively, the indirect influencers are more concerned with the bigger picture. Indirect influencers include things such as what the company stands for, its direction and the future, organisation-wide communication, confidence in senior management and the pride that employees feel working for the company.

The two combine to create employees’ work experience, which has by far the biggest impact on engagement levels. When analysing the two we see that employees’ direct influencers have a bigger impact on engagement than their indirect influencers.

Focusing on team members

On the basis of the above, we advise companies to focus on measuring and reporting engagement at the team level and ask team member engagement survey questions. Underlying our advice is three major considerations:

1)      Variations in engagement levels

Our experience has found that by far the biggest variations in engagement lie at the team level. In general indirect influencers stay fairly constant, and therefore it is inadvisable that they become the sole focus of your engagement survey.

2)      Follow –up action

What is especially important to consider is the follow-up phase and action planning. If a survey’s focus is on the larger, indirect influencers (vision/mission/direction etc.), then any follow-up action is somewhat harder to enact.  Creating a follow-up plan for aspects such as the mission and vision of a company, or future plans is often a very long and bureaucratic process. Any suggested changes need to be discussed and approved from the top, and as such the change process is inefficient.

3)      Creating impact

By focusing on the team level, organisations are able to have a bigger impact on engagement levels. The level of influence that employees (including immediate managers) have over indirect influencers is considerably less than direct influencers. Furthermore, we have learnt that issues at team level are often easier to fix and discuss than organisational wide issues are.

5 factors of successful employee engagement surveys

The most successful engagement surveys use the reports as a basis for discussion and action at team level. Action oriented reports generate far more commitment and actionable follow-up from employees than content heavy reports do. Teams who are trusted, afforded the freedom to discuss the report and are able to design customised action plans (rather than receiving mandates from the top) create much greater impact. Although opening a team dialogue can at first seem daunting, it is key in helping the teams and organisation achieve higher engagement levels. 

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