Whether or not are a leader, manager or business owner, you can’t afford not to know if your employees are engaged or not. In 90% of cases, disengagement occurs because of a breakdown in relationships and communication or a feeling of exclusion. 75% of people resign from their jobs because of relationship issues not because of any dissatisfaction with the company (in other words they leave their manager); what Shay McConnon terms ‘unmet’ needs and unskilled, dysfunctional conversations in his book Managing Conflict in the Workplace.

To date, more than 25 million employees worldwide have utilised Gallup’s ‘the only 12 questions that matter’ Q12 survey, the findings of which overwhelmingly reveal that most employees are not engaged. It is of course true to say that surveys can be extremely effective when you have both the time and the financial resources to go through the process of disseminating the results, compile the data and initiate policies and procedures based upon the outcome, but not when it comes to employee engagement. For many organisations, employee engagement is treated as a ‘bolt-on’, yet employed engagement is not something which can be measured quantitatively. And ultimately, a survey of what people think is at odds with a fact-finding mission to determine how they feel.

Here’s some suggestions as a starter:

If you don’t ask, you don’t get

Strike up a conversation with them – make eye contact, listen and learn. Keep schtum – let the employee answer without interruption or interjection and make decisions only after you have done so. If you were to hit them with a barrage of questions, as that would make anybody suspicious. And, it could likely cause them to only give you the answers they think you want to hear, not the truth of the matter.

Avoid yes or no questions – they are a no no! Keep your questions open-ended. Suggest an informal chat rather than a ‘come to my office at 3pm on Thursday’ scenario which will in all likelihood cause them to close down and feel threatened and defensive. Make it clear that they can talk open and honestly without consequence.

Reality Bites

Try to ascertain if reality lives up to their expectations of the job when they first joined the organisation. Is what you recruited them to do what they are actually doing?

Play Fairy Godmother

If you granted them two wishes which would improve their job or working environment, what would they be? If these transpire to be things that are beyond your powers to action, you do of course run the risk of them looking to work elsewhere. Not necessarily a bad thing if it weeds out those disengaged and non-recoverable disengaged employees.

Three Little Words

As them what three adjectives they would use to describe their place of work to their family and friends, good or bad. Do their answers align at all with the company’s mission and core values?

Where’s the Talent Show?

Try and gauge if the organisation is fully utilising their talents and skills and if you are indeed aware of what they might be. If they feel pigeon-holed or typecast by their current role, is your appraisal process up to scratch? Whether they feel challenged or unstimulated will reveal whether they have a desire for growth or learning a new skill or would simply benefit from a move to a different internal role.

Live to work or work to live? That is the question

Here you want to determine if they are satisfied with their remuneration and benefits package. If you were to put a hypothetical question to them such as if a school leaver shadowed them for the day would they tell them that working for this organisation enables to earn a decent living whilst achieving a good work-life balance, what would they say?

Whichever approach you take, there isn’t necessarily a one-size fits all approach, but isn’t that the modus operandi of this approach instead of a staff survey? Your primary aim in all this should be to encourage, create and foster a flatter hierarchy and open dialogue with every employee. If you manage to achieve this, you will retain them as engaged employees who will advocate your workplace values and missions, enhance the experience of your customers and commit to your organisation through their longevity and continuity.

Rob Rave specialises in designing and delivering engagement, alignment and performance initiatives