When researching employee engagement, I frequently bump into articles, infographics, and blog posts that cite Gallup as the source of their engagement statistics. I've often wondered how one could possibly measure employee engagement accurately. Today curiosity got the better of me, and I took the time to actually find and download that original source - entitled State of the American Workplace - to see where this data comes from. I thought I'd spare you the detective work and share their methods and findings with you.
Gallup measures performance based on the responses workers give to Gallup's Q12 survey, which asks direct questions about various elements in the workplace related to performance outcomes. To determine which workplace elements are the greatest measures of engagement, Gallup spent many years conducting thousands of interviews with employees at every level of the organization in most industries across multiple countries. The wording of those 12 questions was finalized in the 90s, and since then, the interview has been administered to more than 25 million people in 195 countries in 70 languages. Cool, huh?
Here are the questions Gallup uses to evaluate employee engagement:
- I know what is expected of me at work.
- I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
- At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
- In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
- My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
- There is someone at work who encourages my development.
- At work, my opinions seem to count.
- The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.
- My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
- I have a best friend at work.
- In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
- This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.
The Four Levels of Engagement
Notice anything about this list? How about the fact that there are clear groupings of related questions? Gallup determined that there are four levels of engagement that employees go through, and these questions help pinpoint at what stage the organization is struggling to engage the employees (if at all). The needs of each level must be met before the employee is able to move on to the next stage of engagement (much like Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs).
The first things employees in new jobs ask themselves are "What's expected of me," and "Do I have what I need to do the job well." They want to make sure that they're able to perform the job well, and evaluate what they get out of it. This is the foundation of employee engagement.
Once that need has been met, they move on to items three through six, where they evaluate their performance and how others perceive their performance by asking "Do I have the opportunity do do what I do best," "Am I being recognized for my good work," "Does my boss care about me," and "Is there someone here who care about my development."
Once employees have attained the tools they need as the foundation of their engagement and estabilished that they perform well and are appreciated for it, they next evaluate whether or not they belong with the team by asking if their opinions matter, if they feel important, if their coworkers are committed to doing good work too, and if they have friends.
If all of those needs are met, employees are then free to engage at the highest level - by making improvements, learning, growing, and innovating.
That last stage - where employees improve and innovate - is what we all strive to achieve. Fully engaged employees outperform those without by over 202% (source: this Gallup study!). To get your staff there, though, you have to meet their lower level needs first.
How do you measure up?
My challenge to you is to take a look at your organization. Talk to your employees - even issue a survey, if you can - to determine how engaged they really are. And if you hit a group of questions where people start answering "No" to the Gallup questions? That's the area you need to focus on improving.