Why do so many organisations run annual employee engagement surveys and then do nothing with the results? It seems everyone knows they should be doing something about it, but it never quite becomes a priority.

After we complete an engagement survey with a client, we always ask the organisation what action they took as an outcome. Some have a very well-established process in place that involves employee consultation, prioritisation and follow-up actions which are then incorporated in the next survey to track progress. Others do some follow-up focus groups and set some targets for managers to hit the next time, without much support or top down ownership. But most leadership teams listen to a feedback presentation and then ask HR to put some improvement targets in place and wash their hands of it. When we ask why it isn’t a priority for leaders we always (and I mean always) get one of two answers.

Either: “Our business performance is good; I don’t think we need to focus on employee engagement at the moment”

Or: “Our business performance is poor; employee engagement is not our priority at the moment. We have bigger fish to fry”

Ugh? So, when is employee engagement a priority?

Maybe we’ve got this all wrong, maybe employee engagement is never a priority. But we all know, intuitively, that this isn’t the case, so we always probe deeper…

To the high performers

Q: “So, why is business performance so good at the moment?”

A: “Well we’ve just launched a new product” or ”We’ve not really got any competition in this market” or ”We’ve acquired our main competitor” or ”The competition experienced quality problems” or ”We’ve benefited from a production efficiency innovation” or “We won a big client”

Q: “Will any of these advantages last beyond a year?”

A: “Maybe, but probably not, we’ll need some sustainable advantages for long-term success”

Q: “Like fantastic employee engagement or positive culture?”

A: “Yeh, something like that”

To the poor performers

Q: “So, why is business performance so poor at the moment?”

A: “We’re losing good people to the competition” or “Our people are de-motivated” or “We need to develop new skills” or “We need change the way we work” or “Our people aren’t committed”

I rest my case.

Employee engagement is always a priority!