If you want to know the weather, look out of the window!

If you’ve been following the CommScrum at all, you’ll know we’ve been giving a bit of a collective kicking to the “Measurement Mad” school of employee engagement of late. Not that measurement is bad per se – far from it – just that it’s so often measuring the wrong things, and in the wrong way.

Take a look at the Gallup 12 questions, for example. Quite apart from the fact that they don’t tell you anything meaningful beyond broad brush indicators of “happiness” (so an employee has a best friend at work; so what?), they make the massive assumption that these supposed drivers of engagement are universal. No concessions to cultural differences. No concessions to strategic context.

No recognition, for example, of the fact that the underlying dynamics, systems and processes – including those related to communication – are (or at least ought to be) completely different for companies whose business is organised around, say, product leadership versus those with a focus on operational excellence; nor that the types and levels of engagement required differ substantially between a team/organisation in crisis, versus a highly-motivated one that’s working well.

Nor do they tell you anything about the things that really matter – i.e. whether the “engaged” state (whatever that may be) actually leads to the kinds of behaviours the business needs and wants to see. That all just seems to be taken as read, as if the Service Profit Chain had made the business case for everyone, and it’s enough just to show how the numbers are up on last year.

The profession’s become so obsessed with justifying its worth to the bean counters that it can no longer see the wood for the trees. If you want to know the weather, you don’t consult thermometers and barometers, you poke your head out of the curtains and look out the bloody window!

Same with engagement – regardless of all the definitions and approaches, you know it when you see it. What’s the buzz around the place? How well are people interacting – within teams and across functional silos? Are things getting done in the way they need to get done? And if not, where are the blockages?

As any designer would tell you, that’s the realm of ethnographic research (read: observation), not surveys and focus groups, so let’s stop this ridiculous obsession with quantitative measurement for measurement’s sake, eh?

Perhaps then companies can stop spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on pointless surveys and spend it on better ways for people to actually communicate with each other and improve organisational effectiveness. After all, that’s what we’re there to do in the first place, isn’t it?

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3 thoughts on “If you want to know the weather, look out of the window!

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