Frequently asked questions from the initial #Engage employee survey

Canstockphoto4061817Doing anything for the first time is a learning experience. It has been no different with our first employee engagement survey that was conducted as part of the #Engage initiative. Our engagement champions have been working with managers and teams for a few months to help them conduct initial “State of the Team” conversations with their teams. Below are a few of the more frequently asked questions that have come up.

Who am I supposed to be thinking about when I answer the questions on the survey?

While past organizational surveys actually asked “employees to provide feedback on the various levels of management to help with the interpretation of the survey results, Gallup’s Q12 is focused on the employee, the work they do, and those they work with. In fact, there is only one question that uses the word “supervisor” and it is followed by, “…or someone at work…” The survey is specifically asking about your thoughts and opinions on your specific work area and those you work with directly.

Who am I evaluating with my responses?

The short answer is, no one.

One of the major hurdles to overcome with the survey has been the idea that numbers will be used to judge or evaluate someone. While data is often used to rank, sort, and evaluate nearly everything, in this case, it is not used for individual evaluation

The primary purpose of our employee engagement program is to get employees more “engaged” – that is: be more aware of the work they do and its importance, improve the discussion of their work and how it gets accomplished, and to have opportunities to improve both their work and themselves.

The results of the Q12 give feedback on how teams function and can help start discussions on how to make things better, as a team. The discussions and resulting work plans allow employees and teams to have more influence on what and how work is accomplished.

Why don’t I see a department-level work plan?

Past surveys have had a high-level, all-encompassing department-wide element.  In this case, there won’t be a department-level work plan. Gallup’s approach is a grass-roots, team-based one. The long-term goal is to get employees more engaged in the work they do.

Teams at all levels are working on how to improve their performance. There are areas in the department where multiple teams all have similar work. But every team, even if they do similar work has different levels of staffing, equipment, etc. causing conditions in each team to be unique. Having a single, top-down, response to the survey would likely not identify the pressing work issue of that specific team.

Here’s an example. Imagine a family of five. One of the family members isn’t feeling well. They call the doctor’s office and the whole family is asked to come in. Each member is asked to take a series of tests. The test results are averaged and the doctor uses that average information to make a diagnosis. When meeting with the family, the doctor prescribes a medication and gives it to every member of the family.

We all understand this approach wouldn’t work with our families. Likewise, a top down-down, all-encompassing “prescription” would likely have minimal effect on our teams. So why would we want to apply this principle to our teams?  With engagement, the focus is individualized for employees and the teams they work with.

How can I get more involved?

Are you willing to share your experiences related to #Engage? Sharing stories is a great way to help our fellow employees better understand the initiative, struggles, and successes that others are working through, and more easily relate experiences to their own. If interested in sharing, you can let your champion know or contact [email protected] or 515-239-1297.



I believe this survey and others like it that have been used by the Department of Transportation in the past have more use in the private sector than in a government agency. In this government agency the incentive to do outstanding work is limited to personal pride. That is the only reason one has to excel. There is no system to reward a good work ethic. Maybe it is time for the State come up with some form of reward system other than awards for longevity.

"The long-term goal is to get employees more engaged in the work THEY do."

To use a similar analogy - the doctor diagnosis us with cancer. When we ask for chemo the doctor tells us to focus on what our family can control. No matter what we do we aren't getting rid of that cancer without the help of someone outside our family.

Gallup has diagnosed us, but unless upper level leaders listen when we say the major problems need upper level authority to solve - we will continue to succumb to our illness. Grassroots can provide ideas for solutions, but some problems need management to implement.

I can promise engagement will always be an issue when people are struggling to communicate outside their work group and staffing isn't adequate to tackle the difficulty or quantity of work. These problems will not be solved in our work group vacuums.

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