It’s well accepted in business that what gets measured gets done.

Organizational leaders can talk all day about employee engagement, but measuring the organization’s progress brings into stark relief whether those efforts are working—providing a road map to what should come next.

When an organization measures its employees’ engagement, it signals to the staff that the organization cares about the issue and wants to provide an avenue for them to express how they feel about their employer. Just the act of benchmarking begins the process and sets the path ahead.

Continuing to measure progress regularly demonstrates to the entire organization that employee engagement is an ongoing priority. This resonates not only with staff but with managers as well because they are the ones who will be responsible for improving the level of engagement in the organization.

First Step: Assess

When CEOs want to improve employee engagement in their organizations, the first step I recommend is to measure employees’ engagement levels. When a CEO announces that the organization will be measuring engagement levels every year, the combination of metrics and recurrence sends a strong message to leaders at all levels.

The data derived from employee surveys is a valuable tool that facilitates constructive and substantive conversation about the issues. They’re no longer just anecdotal and subject to personal experience, but quantitative information about how employees feel when they get to work – the primary determinant for how they will behave. High marks demonstrate what is possible, and lower grades suggest the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Nonetheless, data collection is not the same as change management. Once senior leaders have the necessary data, the next step must be to share it with the entire organization. It is disingenuous to survey all staff and then refuse to be transparent about what was learned from the results. The data will give senior leadership, department managers who are critical to the success of any initiative, and the rest of the staff the confidence that efforts to improve enterprise-wide culture are rooted in science and are on the right track.

Senior leadership should identify key themes in the survey results, addressing both the positive aspects and the areas of greatest concern. This demonstrates that management cares about employees’ opinions and feelings and that they’re paying attention to the message.

Second Step: Equip

Surveying is the first step in the process of improving workplace engagement. The essential next step is to employ the data to determine what areas need the most improvement. About 70% of the variance in workplace engagement pivots around managers, so equipping them with new skills is essential in moving the needle to higher levels of performance.

The survey data will identify two key things. First, it will highlight which managers are struggling the most with their leadership skills. These may be otherwise very competent managers, highly skilled and productive, but they have room to grow as a leader. Second, the data will pinpoint for each of these individuals where they have the greatest opportunity to improve. From my experience working with client companies, the most common areas of need revolve around validation, recognition, and feedback—the three critical elements of building a high-performance culture that many managers fail to create, or execute poorly.

There are also areas of need outside a manager’s direct purview, such as the actions of senior leaders, the quality of the enterprise culture, and how effectively the organization celebrates employees, important milestones, and impact with customers and community.

The critical takeaway here is that measuring is vital, but only if it leads to change and that is far more likely to occur when the people most responsible for the numbers are equipped with new, science-based leadership skills.

Third Step: Sustain

Without follow-up and daily reinforcement across a spectrum of actions, managers and employees can begin to view the whole process as just another management fad, sure to blow over eventually. Consistent recommitment to change management will itself become part of the organizational culture over time. When senior leaders become intentional about improving the culture around how managers lead, effective change is almost inevitable.

Lastly: Measure Repeatedly

Surveys must be performed regularly—at least every nine to twelve months—to demonstrate management’s continued commitment to the initiative, and to recalibrate efforts based on the results.

Organizations that seek out how their employees’ feel at work, report the results, commit to act with science-based strategies, and follow through consistently are well-positioned to achieve improved workplace culture that boasts a high percentage of actively engaged employees.

Action Steps:

  • Commit to setting a benchmark on employee engagement through an all-staff survey.
  • Analyze the results and share them with the entire staff.
  • Employ the data to make changes in the organization that will lead to more workplace engagement.
  • Continue surveying staff to measure progress every nine to twelve months.
  • Update the plan to account for findings from each subsequent survey.