I’m so heartened to see evidence that employers are still interested in fostering engagement in their workplace cultures — even in these times when “they should just be glad they have a job” is a management model that actually feels a little legitimate. Well-written engagement surveys are a very good thing. Scores that report all raves? Okay. Scores that are a little bit good and a little bit bad — even a lot bad? Fabulous!
But how can that be? Isn’t the name of the game to have great engagement scores? Actually, no. The name of the game is to have a great engagement culture. So what kind of scores should you look for if positive scores aren’t the goal? Answer: Accurate ones. Well, that’s self-evident, but perhaps not for the reasons you might think.
Here is why bad scores are good news:
- Bad scores reveal the areas that need to be fixed. If you use engagement surveys for their best purpose, which is to discover the cultural aspects where improvement would be welcome, nothing is more useful than a rotten score. It’s too bad if that negative score is directly assigned to a manager. But this is your opportunity to save perhaps an otherwise extremely valuable employee — or even an entire department.
- Bad scores demonstrate that your people still take the survey process seriously. Filling out these surveys is a huge leap of faith for your people — even if you can give them a 100% guarantee that their answers are confidential. There is still that risk of a security slip, and then a pink slip. When your people step forward and report negative experiences, that act alone shows you how deeply committed they are to the long-term success of your company and its culture.
- Bad scores are an indication that you are asking the right questions. Assuming that you are custom-writing your surveys, the negative responses to specific questions give you the specific data you need to improve your culture.
I know that it’s hard to take risks with your questions, especially if you have been experiencing year after year of positive scores. But especially if you have been enjoying year after year of positive scores, now is definitely the time to ask the scary questions that could shake up some of your leaders.
Should that be the case, don’t dismay. Negative scores show that your people still care passionately about your business. Which is actually the best possible outcome you can hope for.