Did you hear about the patient with perfect blood pressure, perfect heart rate, perfect cholesterol levels, wonderful muscle tone yet was slowly dying?

You’re about to.

The patient’s name is Employee Engagement.

Yesterday I pointed you to a write up about KMPG accusing the “employee engagement” industry of being a racket and how they were going to focus on company performance first – employee engagement second. KMPG bluntly said there was NO causal relationship between engagement and business outcomes and that focusing on the employee-employer relationship was more important than ongoing universal engagement surveys. Well, today I want to bring you some data from a great company run by Don MacPherson (@MacPherson_D) Modern Survey that I think shows some interesting quirks and may reinforce that the employee-manager relationship starts the chain of events that results in business performance and engagement.

Modern Survey released their Fall 2015 State of Engagement Report (worth a look) and there was some very interesting information in it. I’m going to pull some stats from it but you’d be wise to download your free copy here. No lightweight “poll” – this is a serious document. They’ve been doing this survey every six months since 2007 – so they got some data.

The survey says…

(be honest – you just read that like Steve Harvey from Family Feud right?)

Full engagement has dropped from the all-time high of 16% to 13%.

 “Disengagement” has returned to the study’s all-time low at 22% and is far below the 32% from two and a half years ago. (low is better – less people are disengaged.)

How I read this is that fewer people are ECSTATIC about their engagement and fewer people are feeling Eeyore-ish. That means there are more people in the organization that are simply “Meh.”

The middle – the neither/nor and the lukewarm – is growing. No real love – no real hate. Kind of the employee engagement “friends zone”?

Yet… all the elements that seemingly make up high engagement are all on the rise! And in some cases up by a LOT!

  • Willingness to refer the company to friends – UP
  • I have a promising future – UP about 10%
  • I can grow and develop – UP about 10%
  • Senior management sincerely interested in me – UP about 10%
  • Organizational confidence – UP about 5%
  • Over 50% of respondents trust management

What is going on here?

If I simply gave you that list of results, you’d be skipping down the halls clicking your heels humming the theme from Rocky!

Yet – the overall scores are down. Down by 20% or so from fall of 2014.

The patient is healthy but is dying!

vital signs 3

Bring In House

When the patient isn’t responding to normal treatment you bring in Dr. Gregory House. He’s the one who famously said that most people when they hear hoofbeats think horses but maybe they should think zebras.

What else is in this study that might give us some clues as to what is going on here?

First of all – Managers are significantly less disengaged than the rank and file (by half). Only 16% of managers are disengaged vs. almost 30% of non-managers. AND… 64% of managers are moderately to fully engaged whereas only 40% of employees report the same engagement. Huge difference in engagement/disengagement scores.

Secondly one of the declining metrics was “My work gives me a feeling of personal accomplishment” dropping from 79% to 72% of employees. Not low but who knows what a good score really is? But I know this – it is one of few metrics showing a drop and that can’t be ignored.

My Monday Morning Quarterbacking

Here’s my feeling…

Managers have more control over their job than most employees. They have more latitude with respect to “how” things get done. In turn – they tell their employees what to do – limiting the employee’s creativity and decision making. The control managers have over their “work lives” translates into engagement. The lack of control they pass onto their subordinates translates into lower engagement.

Give me some latitude and I’ll give you some engagement.

What say you – too simple?

Is control the employee engagement silver bullet?