Management tools – Gallup’s Q12 Engagement Survey

Managing and leading can be difficult. It’s well documented that as you move up a hierarchy the harder it is to get honest feedback on your ideas and on the organization’s health. In these positions quantitative measures of engagement can be a helpful tool for understanding the health of your organization and for asking the right questions of your employees.

“Engagement” sounds like squishy business jargon. But there are many tested measurement tools and there is a well documented relationship between high engagement levels among employees and superior organizational performance. Some instruments, like the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale, are used in academia and others are developed by management consultants (Gallup, Towers Perrin, Blessing White, Hewitt, and Kenexa all have their own flavors). Gallup’s Q12 instrument is one of the best known examples.

Generally these instruments consist of a simple survey. The results are tallied and each employee is graded as (generally) “Engaged” “Neutral” or “Actively disengaged.” A survey is helpful if you want to perform a check-up of the whole organization or a large department. But there’s a lot of value in simply using the questions as a framework while communicating and thinking about employees. They can be a teacher, helping you understand what is important to your employees and to keeping them engaged.

See for yourself, read through the list of questions that make up the Gallup Q12 . As you read, think about the people you manage and how they would answer each statement.

The Q12 statements follow.  For each statement there are six response options (from 5=strongly agree to 1=strongly disagree; the sixth response option — don’t know/does not apply — is unscored).

  1. I know what is expected of me at work.
  2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
  3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  5. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
  6. There is someone at work who encourages my development.
  7. At work, my opinions seem to count.
  8. The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.
  9. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
  10. I have a best friend at work.
  11. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
  12. This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

These are straight forward. If you know your people at all, you probably know how they would answer them. And if they wouldn’t rate themselves as highly engaged, it’s pretty clear how you could fix this. If, on average, your people rate “Agree” to “Strongly Agree” then you have engaged people, you’re doing a great job.

Generally I wouldn’t advocate “teaching to the test” because of the temptation to game the measurement. But in this case Gallup seems to have done a good job covering most of the basic needs of employees in these simple questions. The only exception I see is pay equity. The measurement assumes that employees feel they are being paid fairly.

As you manage and lead in your organization the Q12 is a useful tool to help to keep the feedback flowing. Use it to check your assumptions about employee engagement and make sure you haven’t been blinded by your position.

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Fixity, Fluidity, and Presence–Paper vs. Electronic

Kevin Kelly compared the fixity of paper books with the fluidity of ebooks in a recent blog post titled “Fixity vs. Fluidity” (which was inspired by Nick Carr). He highlights four aspects of “fixity” that paper books have:

Fixity of the page— The page stays the same. Whenever you pick it up, its’ the same. You can count on it, and refer and cite it with certainty.

Fixity of the edition— No matter which copy of the book you pick up, anywhere, it will be the same, so the fixed content is shared, and within an edition, the same always.

Fixity of the object— Paper books last a very long time, and their text doesn’t change as they age.

Sense of completeness — A sense of finality and closure that became part of the attraction of literature.

And four positive aspects of “fluidity” that ebooks have:

Fluidity of the page — Can flow to fit any space, any where, any time.

Fluidity of the edition— Can be corrected or improved incrementally.

Fludity of the item— Can be kept in the cloud at such low cost that it is “free” to keep and constantly slipped to new “movage” platforms.

Sense of growth — The never-done-ness of an ebook (at least in the ideal) resembles a life more than a stone, animating us as creators and readers.

I resonate with both lists of positive attributes. Paper books have an authority and weight (No, not the lb/kg type) to them that electronic media do not have. But, an ebook can be be changed easily, re-uploaded to an ereader, always current.

But there’s something in this “fixity” that wasn’t included in his post. Something I’ve been thinking about recently that is lacking in most computing experiences. I’m calling it persistence and presence.

A paper book is both persistent and present in a way that an ebook is not. Similarly, paper notebooks, sketches, lists, and notes are also persistent and present in a way that their electronic equivalents are not.

It struck me recently that MS OneNote (my life organizer of choice) has never completely replaced sticky notes, reminders on bulletin boards, whiteboard brainstorming, and similar physical “tools”. The purchasing manager probably thinks I’m single handedly keeping 3M in business with my post-it note purchases. These physical tools are persistent and present, I don’t have to choose to view them, they are just there. OneNote, in it’s current form (with one exception I’ll get to later), is only one of many programs I can choose to open while I’m on my computer. If I don’t open it, I’m not confronted by my Todo’s, Projects, and other notes. They are not persistently present (even more so If I don’t turn my computer on at all). A sticky note on my desk, however, confronts me. It can’t be ignored. Physical books are the same way. They sit on the shelf saying “read me!” every time you walk by. Especially if you have a spot on your shelf for the books you want to read next like I do. Walking into the living room I see those books, right at eye level just waiting for some time  with me in my reading chair.

So, for me, these physical tools remain because their persistence and presence are useful. Until there are ways to make electronic information as persistent and present as a post-it note or paper book, I’ll probably keep using them.

I’m sure the lack of presence and persistence in electronic media and tools will be addressed. My windows phone (the exception I mentioned above) allows me to make a couple of my key OneNote pages (“Todo and idea capture” and “Week’s Goals and Today’s todos”) persistent by putting them on the start screen of my phone. And they are present because I always have my phone with me.

WindowsPhoneOneNote

New technologies like windows with built in monitors/TV, imbedded micro projectors shining information onto walls, and the “Internet of Things” will all increase the persistence and presence of digital content if designed properly.

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