Forget Employee Engagement Surveys

Modern companies and employees deserve a metric built on modern research. Organizational Commitment is that Metric.

Our Claim

The Employee Engagement Survey industry is built upon antiquated research but propped up by modern marketing and in-house “research”.

Companies are Spending the Money but Where are the Results?

As noted by Harvard Business Review, “Companies spend over $720 million each year on employee engagement, and that’s projected to rise to over $1.5 billion. And yet, employee engagement is at record lows”. While there is no disputing the rise of money and attention companies are investing in bolstering their employees’ engagement, there are serious reasons to dispute that this was money well spent.

What this has all amounted to is an industry which overpromises, underdelivers, and yet they have cornered themselves into a position where there can be no better metric than “Employee Engagement”.

Addressing Skepticism:

Given the growth and dominance of Employee Engagement surveying, we understand why some might be apprehensive to ditch this established and widely accepted metric.

After all, why would 71% of Fortune 500 Managers prioritize employee engagement if it was such a poor and ineffective metric?

Such points are more than fair on their face, but there is a quick thought experiment which makes most want to dig deeper:

If there was a metric more powerful than employee engagement, would your survey company be honest and upfront about it?

Or is their $1.5 Billion industry more important to them?

The Problems with Measuring

Employee Engagement

Vague Definition Issues

“Although compelling on the surface, the meaning of the employee engagement concept is unclear.”. Research continues to show that the “meaning of employee engagement is ambiguous among both academic researchers and among practitioners who use it in conversations with clients… Various conceptualizations of engagement as a state, trait, or behavior, as imprecise as they may have been, are exceeded in imprecision only by the various ways this vague concept has been operationalized.” Source

This lack of clarity and consistency has been the result of companies like Gallup, who spend  “considerable time and page space explaining the meta-analytic techniques” but “considerably less time defining and validating the construct of employee engagement.” Due to  “this lack of construct definition, subsequent users interpret the construct in different ways.” Source

  • “The definitions are not clear as to whether engagement is an attitude or a behavior.” Source
  • “The definitions are not clear as to whether engagement is an individual or a group level phenomenon.” Source
  • “The definitions do not make clear the relationship between engagement and other well-known and accepted constructs.” Source
  • “There are measurement issues that obscure the true meaning of the construct.” Source

Conceptual Issues

“I would suggest that using the word ‘engagement’ often limits our thinking. It assumes that our job is to reach out and ‘engage’ people, rather than to build an organization that is exciting, fulfilling, meaningful, and fun. Plus we aren’t just looking to get people ‘engaged’, we want them to be ‘married.’ That is, fully committed.” Source

“Leadership IQ discovered that in 42% of organizations, low performers are actually MORE ENGAGED than high and middle performers.” Source

“The attraction for consulting groups and their client organizations may be that engagement is not an ‘academic’ concept, but one that has been marketed as practical…. The Gallup researchers have inconsistently reported their research to appeal to practitioners and, in doing so, have opened their concepts up for misuse by others.” Source

Measurement Issues

“Engagement is a concept which has not been rigorously conceptualized, much less thoroughly studied… If one does not know what one is measuring, the action implications will be, at best, vague and, at worst, a leap of faith… This has practical significance because the advice the practitioner offers management on addressing engagement issues requires a similar inferential leap.” Source

No, an employee’s results (ie: their level of engagement) can vary not only day by day but within a given day. Daily variations have been shown to be caused by several variables such as the quality of recovery (during breaks & between days), changing levels of social support from peers, as well as positive and negative coloration experiences. Source

No, for many of the same reasons why it is not stable day to day. Variations in how people react to those factors, such as collaboration, ultimately leads to variations in the reliability of Employee Engagement as a metric. Source

Issues for Marginalized Groups

 “Employee engagement can, at times, be positioned without regard for privilege or without regard for individuals’ sense of meaning in work or, in some cases, without regard for both.” Source

“Employee engagement can lead to a privileged state, which influences the belief that resource allocation is fair, decisions are made equally, all workers are treated with dignity, and information can be trusted (higher levels of organizational justice).” Source

“We argue that when privilege, employee engagement, and meaningful work are considered alongside one another, employee engagement can be viewed not as a product of privilege but as privilege itself providing promising answers to the question of who benefits from high levels of employee engagement.” Source

“When the context of work is disadvantaged through exercises of privilege and manifested power, we expect less privileged employees to report lower levels of engagement.” Source

Employee Implications & Family Issues

  • “There are limits on the pool of energy and resources available to employees” and that “sustained levels of engagement will be difficult to achieve.” Source
  • “When state engagement is high, people will be so focused on their work and investing their psychological resources there that they are less able to deploy those resources back home. Consequently, high levels of state engagement are likely to be associated with work interference with family.” Source
  • “Our findings suggest that, over time, engagement may actually erode the very resources it relies upon to develop, thereby calling into question the ability of engagement to be sustained over long periods of time.” Source

Effectiveness Issues

According to Harvard Business Review, companies spend over $720 million each year on employee engagement, and that’s projected to rise to over $1.5 billion. Yet a review of over 3,000 organizations found that of the companies administering Employee Engagement surveys, 31% have seen no change in engagement scores and 13% have actually had their engagement drop. Source With all of these billions of dollars spent in the last decade, we’ve at most seen a 2% improvement in the number of engaged employees. Source

“Leadership IQ discovered that in 42% of organizations, low performers are actually MORE ENGAGED than high and middle performers.” Source

“48 percent of HR professionals in a recent survey say they don’t believe employee surveys provide honest and accurate assessments.” Source 

“58 percent said survey results don’t actually help managers gain a greater knowledge of behaviors and practices they can change to improve.” Source

“Employee morale is suffering, clever and empty perks continue to fail, and employee engagement scores are not identifying the real issues.” Source

“Individual commitment to a group effort - that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”

-Vince Lombardi

What is Organizational Commitment?

Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University defines Organizational Commitment as “a partisan, affective attachment to the goals and values of an organization, to one’s role in relation to goals and values, and to the organization for its own sake, apart from its purely instrumental worth”.

Organizational Commitment is experienced by employees as
three simultaneous mindsets reflecting:

a Desire

to maintain employment in an organization.(Affective Commitment)

an Obligation

to maintain employment in an organization.(Normative Commitment)

a Need

to maintain employment in an organization. (Continuance Commitment)

a Desire

to maintain employment in an organization.
(
Affective Commitment)

an Obligation

to maintain employment in an organization.
(
Normative Commitment)

a Need

to maintain employment in an organization.
(
Continuance Commitment)

The Benefits of Improving

Organizational Commitment

Real Outcomes, Supported by Real Research

According to a meta-analysis of findings published in the Scientific Journal of Vocational Behavior, when you increase employees’ Organizational Commitment, you will:

DECREASE

INCREASE

Here are Just a Few More:

“Gaining employee commitment results in greater profits because enthusiastic employees stay, contribute discretionary effort, and engage customers. Performance soars when customers are enthused and stay and when executives, managers, and employees are a collaborative team, united in achieving common goals.”

“Employees being committed to the success of the organization and believing that working for this organization is their best option….. [Loyal employees] do not actively search for alternative employment and are not responsive to offers.”

“Organizational Commitment is conceived of as the psychological attachment felt by the person for the organization; it will reflect the degree to which the individual internalizes or adopts characteristics or perspectives of the organization….A failure to develop this psychological attachment among members may require the organization to bear the increased costs associated with more detailed and sophisticated control systems.”

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