Employee Engagement Is Definitely Not a Survey

Recognize This! – Understanding the difference between transactional and emotional engagement can mean the difference between success and failure of engagement efforts.

Following on yesterday’s post in which I made clear that employee engagement is a commitment, not an event, it’s equally important to remember that employee engagement is not a survey. Surveys can be a useful tool to help gauge engagement, but only if done well. (For a great short presentation on why surveys are usually bad and what you can do instead, check this out from Doug Shaw.)

Relying too heavily on a survey to ascertain your employee engagement levels can also result in actually encouraging employee disengagement. The reasons lie in the difference between transactional and emotional engagement, discussed in this recent CIPD research reported in HR Review magazine:

“High levels of engagement could actually be damaging for organisations and their employees if one dimensional engagement surveys mask the types of engagement at play within an organisation. That’s according to new research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and Kingston University Business School’s Centre for Research in Employment, Skills and Society (CRESS), which found an important distinction between transactional and emotional engagement.

“The research found that employees that are transactionally engaged (i.e. engaged only with the task or job role at hand) may respond positively to engagement surveys and display the outward behaviours associated with engagement, but are less likely to perform well and will quickly leave for a better offer. However, those that are emotionally engaged (i.e. engaged with the organisation’s mission and values), are more likely to perform, have higher levels of wellbeing and are more likely to remain engaged through good times and bad.”

How do you help employees emotionally engage with your mission and values – something employees rarely know or fully understand? Social employee recognition is one of the most powerful, positive means to do so by intentionally using your core values as primary reasons for recognition and praise in your organization. When you then encourage all employees to recognize their colleagues for living the values in their daily work, these often abstract ideas come alive and make sense in terms of desired behaviors employees can (and will) repeat.

As the research points out, this kind of emotional engagement with your organization – and with their colleagues – is the kind of engagement that helps drive organization success. Angela Baron, research adviser at the CIPD, commented:

“While we definitely encourage organisations to measure engagement, it’s not enough for organisations to focus on increasing their engagement scores without considering what type and locus of engagement is being measured. What people are engaged with, and the nature and driving force behind their engagement, also need taking into consideration – otherwise organisations risk misunderstanding the actual extent and nature of engagement. For example, transactionally engaged employees are likely to answer survey questions positively or be willing to take on extra work because they believe that is how they will achieve their desired ends. Whilst not being disengaged, in deciding how they will deploy their efforts they are more likely to act in self-interest than in the best interests of the organisation.”

Are your employees transactionally engaged or emotionally engaged? How about you?

Derek Irvine

About Derek Irvine

The VP of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their organizations. As a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition, he teaches companies how to use recognition to proactively manage company culture. Derek holds a B.Comm and Masters of Business Studies from the Smurfit Graduate Business School at University College Dublin.

11 Responses

  1. [...] too, simply isn’t true. An engagement program (and certainly not an engagement survey) will ever engage employees. But, much like building a relationship based on mutual trust and [...]

  2. [...] too, simply isn’t true. An engagement program (and certainly not an engagement survey) will ever engage employees. But, much like building a relationship based on mutual trust and [...]

  3. [...] The author is correct, however, on this point:  Surveys without actions are meaningless, even harmful. If you go to the trouble and expense of surveying employees, then you must take action on what they tell you – consistently. And you must communicate intentions, plans actions and results throughout. I wrote much more on that here. [...]

  4. [...] The author is correct, however, on this point:  Surveys without actions are meaningless, even harmful. If you go to the trouble and expense of surveying employees, then you must take action on what they tell you – consistently. And you must communicate intentions, plans actions and results throughout. I wrote much more on that here. [...]

  5. [...] The author is correct, however, on this point:  Surveys without actions are meaningless, even harmful. If you go to the trouble and expense of surveying employees, then you must take action on what they tell you – consistently. And you must communicate intentions, plans actions and results throughout. I wrote much more on that here. [...]

  6. [...] written before that employee engagement isn’t an “initiative” and it most certainly isn’t a “survey.” Yes, surveys and planning are part of the process, but the end goal is to create a culture in which [...]

  7. [...] written before that employee engagement isn’t an “initiative” and it most certainly isn’t a &ld…Yes, surveys and planning are part of the process, but the end goal is to create a culture in which [...]

  8. [...] I’ve written before that employee engagement isn’t an “initiative” and it most certainly isn’t a “survey.” [...]

  9. [...] are traditionally conducted and then acted upon. Indeed, let’s stop torturing our employees with bad surveys – especially bad employee engagement [...]

  10. [...] traditionally conducted and then acted upon. Indeed, let’s stop torturing our employees with bad surveys – especially bad employee engagement [...]

  11. [...] conducted and then acted upon. Indeed, let’s stop torturing our employees with bad surveys – especially bad employee engagement [...]

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