The way we measure engagement gives us wrong data no matter how we look at it. We then build strategies and prepare action plans based on incorrect data.
First, no scientifically or collectively agreed-upon definition of employee engagement exists, so I don't know what we are measuring. The word engagement must be left in the rubbish bin of the past and changed to something like "Enjoy working here".
Secondly, everyone is engaged or enjoys working for different reasons, so a set of one-size-fits-all questions provides answers to what Susan in HR thinks everyone is engaged by, but it is not reality. I know these questions result from mass research, but these researches were conducted five decades ago, and things have significantly changed since then. Out of the 50 questions we used to get in our surveys, I found two that "made me enjoy working there": 1. I have a best friend at work. 2. I know that I contribute to the team's success. The rest of the questions made no difference to my experience.
Thirdly, measuring something once a year gives you bad data because how I feel on the 15th of October differs from how I feel about working there in general.
The weather will shape my view on that day (we have data on how the weather influences engagement scores), the argument I had with my manager or colleague last week, the praise I got yesterday, or the fact that I did not get that promotion I applied for two weeks ago. It is not useful data that would give the employer an objective picture of how Szilvia feels about working here in general because how we feel fluctuates.
So what is the solution? Not quarterly pulse surveys because that pretty much does the same thing as once-a-year ones.
The solution is (which I am working on with a tech startup building an app) to capture employee data every single day by answering only one question. I will not tell you the question. Sorry.
This then builds an employee's "engagement" (we don't call it that) profile, which can be extracted at the end of the year, showing the journey of Szilvia and her average level of engagement throughout the year. The data is also available to the individuals so they can visualise their journey and see the rollercoaster of life ..... :-))
The managers can extract weekly or monthly data at any time for their teams to monitor their team's "engagement" and step in on time when it drops instead of waiting for once or twice a year data to tell them that there is a problem.
Isn't it what we do with customer experience? Don't we measure and monitor it daily and respond to it when it fluctuates? Or at least try to understand why it has moved either way.
So why don't we apply the same approach to our employees? Once, twice, or even quarterly data collection says, "We don't really care, and we are just going through the process." If we care, we care every day, and we must show that.