When less of a good thing is better


The use case for more frequent measurement of employee sentiment

Most medium and large organizations do some form of employee survey on a yearly basis. Some even up the ante by doing a few spot surveys throughout the year. But for some organizations, their whole world can change over 3 or 4 months.  Customer service is one of these sensitive areas.  Healthcare is another.  Large organizations with shift-work and high turnover costs are common hot spots.  The immediacy of the relationship between workers and the bottom-line (quality, costs, outcomes, customer loyalty, operating risk) is well-accepted.  And there are many other examples where this close relationship is both obvious and well-understood by executives. 

Yet we see again and again how these same organizations and great leaders continue to “measure” these drivers of enterprise health and risk using outdated and “stale-dated” data and methods.  Why is this?  And what connections can we make for these otherwise-great leaders and organizations to encourage and enable them to measure these key drivers of organizational health more frequently?

Everybody loves taking tests, surveys and trips to the dentist

For decades the gold standard in employee measurement has been the dreaded survey.  Whether administered by management, consultants or unions, these have traditionally been “bad medicine” – yet the only option most business leaders feel they have.  Billions of dollars are spent each year trying to upgrade, re-brand, or sugar coat these customs.  Making them shorter, coming up with catchy names “360” or putting them online, are among the “upgrades.”  As good as it gets, it’s too often a perfunctory “check-box” that top executives have to live with .  They must go through the process, yet they admit freely that the results are “stale dated” and “DOA” most of the time, even after spending millions on “employee engagement” professional services experts that sift, sort, interpret and “implement” the results. 

Blow-up the old process and join the digital age, along with your millennial workers

A root canal is still a root canal

One thing is clear about today’s workers:  more and more they are calling-out their employers and flatly refusing to take and re-take the tired old employee surveys.  Today’s worker and customer survey industry is in turmoil, as today’s workers and customers “just say no.”  The industry is flopping around with “incentives” and gamification and even paying survey-takers.  The truth is that in its current format, it’s still a one-way transaction and often a sink-hole for one’s time as well.  Busy workers can’t be bothered. 

Back to trust, and lipstick on a pig

According to Stephen Covey, distrust of management doubles the cost of doing business and triples the time it takes to get things done.

Trust is a huge driver here.  The industry’s big improvement was “automation.”  This meant that the surveys now came in online form, with complex authentication, and a whole stream of “reminders” for tardy response.  Same long, drawn-out survey.  The technical term for this is “lipstick on a pig.”  It’s still a pig.   This “automation” of the survey backfired, and the “reminders” to complete the surveys call anonymity into question.  The ridiculously late and mostly irrelevant “results and insights” that come back 6 or 8 months later (or sometimes not at all) make a farce out of the whole exercise, as line workers often see their mid-level supervisors scrambling to “create a plan” based on completely irrelevant and outdated data… and wasting valuable time in the process.

The crisis has reached a point at which the industry leaders are forced to admit that it’s almost like the old communist lament:  “we pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us.”  In this case, the workers pretend to report honestly on their surveys and the executives pretend to accept the results and the related “process and plans to improve” as effective and accurate.  In fact all parties know that this is flawed. 

To be fair, nobody wants it to remain this way.  And there are many great leaders at great companies trying to fix the process.  In fact, innovation is happening around the issue, but it’s uneven and it disrupts the overall system, so it’s slow going.

“Survey 2.0”  - One new approach:  frequency, simplicity, real-time insight, and mobility

It's no longer a survey  It's a real-time management tool.  It augments the pre-existing survey.  What if traditional surveys wouldn’t go away, but instead would be updated…. Daily.  And cut down to one question.  Quite a challenge, yet there is a model for this.   Today, in 2012, billions of people check-in (in a way) each day using some social network, or check their email… and most people are now doing this via their mobile device (phone or tablet) on the go.  We take this for granted, and it’s almost “native” behavior.  Just look at the number of people on the street walking - but staring at a tiny screen.

Why not take this simple, known behavior and create a daily check-in and simple worker sentiment service that works on a phone, laptop or tablet… from anywhere.  That’s what WorkersCount is all about.

If you take the concept of worker surveys (“sentiment” measurement), strip-out the annoying “survey” format and reduce the number of questions to 1…. And use a radio button and a fun mobile app (with rewards and total anonymity)… it’s possible to augment the dreaded annual survey with a simple daily check-in.  And voila! You have a daily pulse of the workforce.  Add-in simple worker-facing insights and comparisons and it’s no longer a one-way street.  All parties get value, insight and transparency.

Who wins?

Workers win, because everyone sees the external trends and can help drive accountability for the companies.  Workers can instantly compare their company to another, and drill all the way down to a job or role.

Companies win when they use the Enterprise service, which is a “private” instance of the WorkersCount service.  In this situation, workers participate in a “private” check-in service (same level of anonymity) and the company can work out it’s most serious issues (and find its most wonderful internal successes) in private.  The powerful adjunct is that the company can also compare some of its private results to selected public results and benchmarks established anonymously via the overall service.

What might this look like?

As readers of this blog already know, the service is in public release today.  Workers from over 450 companies are checking-in daily to report their sentiment, and answer a single “question of the day” on their mobile device or laptop.

So go to http://www.workerscount.com today and experiment with the service.  Think about what this might look like in your organization.  And think about the valuable (and fun) insights you and your colleagues will have as you compare your experience to benchmark information and other companies as well.

Whether you’re a business leader or a new employee, knowledge is power.  The best thing you can do for yourself or for your employees is create trust, authenticity and transparency.

And it’s much more like enjoying a hot fudge sundae than taking a survey.

We promise.    With a cherry on top.