When many of us took the Gallup 12 survey last fall, we weren’t totally clear, and many were even openly skeptical, about what the survey was all about. How could 12 relatively vague questions help us improve our work culture?
As Director Mark Lowe said in his Jan. 3, 2019, email to all employees, “So now to answer the big question – how did we do? Well, let’s not sugarcoat it my friends – we have room to improve.”
Our composite score was a 3.39 out of 5 (recall the scale for each question ran from 1 for “strongly disagree” to 5 for “strongly agree”), which puts us in the bottom 11th percentile of all Gallup organizations. (As a point of comparison, the 75th percentile for all Gallup organizations is 4.39) The graphic below shows our overall distribution of engaged, disengaged, and actively engaged employees, based on the first survey.
We’re just getting started.
We’ve trained 26 champions to work with managers, supervisors, and team leads in their teams; we have released team results to managers, supervisors, and team leads; and we’ve finished Gallup-led training for managers, supervisors, and team leads to help them understand the results and to lead team strategies for improvement.
Now that the first survey is complete and the results are in, the work turns to all of us. Managers, supervisors, and team leads are sharing team results with their teams, and the champions are leading the development of team assessments and plans. The way to make the assessment process work is for everyone to participate openly, honestly and in good faith and give the implementation of the team plan a fair chance.
Different teams need different things. Since there will be specific plans to address those needs for each team, there won’t be one plan for the agency. But the goal is for all of us to keep working through the process. After we have a chance to develop and work on our plans, we’ll survey again, assess again, adjust our plans, and keep working together. Loving the process just means giving it a chance, participating in good faith, and sticking with it over time to improve across the agency. If we do that, we’ll have a good chance of attaining a thriving workplace that’s great for all of us.
One Champion’s experience
Shawn Blaesing from the Maintenance Bureau is one of the #Engage champions who are helping teams through the journey of taking #Engage to the next step. Although she works in Ames, her regular job duties put her in daily contact with our field forces where she has built strong relationships over the years. Her additional duties as an #Engage champion are enhanced because of those relationships.
She has met with the 13 teams she is supporting in the #Engage efforts and some overarching themes have emerged. She said, “In the beginning, some people were concerned that their answers to the survey would be used against them. Now that we have the results and are having discussions about those results, I think those fears have been set aside and people are more comfortable sharing openly and honestly.”
Blaesing said, “Within the shops, the employees feel they have each other’s backs. The teams I’ve been working with see safety for the traveling public, and their crews, as the overarching goal.”
In talking about safety, many teams have brought up that they don’t have the right equipment to safely do what they need to do. As part of the process, Blaesing will bring this forward to management in the Highway Division. That’s part of the value of the survey, to uncover issues that might have broader applications throughout the agency.
In addition to safety and equipment, the team conversations have sometimes “hit a nerve” regarding other work-related issues. In the groups she’s working with, Blaesing has found that many are still upset about changes to collective bargaining. She said, “There is a feeling in the groups I work with that no one outside of the garage/team is fighting for them, they are forced to work straight time on holidays, have low pay equality compared to similar jobs, etc.”
What people are saying agency-wide
David Putz, acting employee engagement program manager, confirms what Shawn and other champions have been hearing - teams are often identifying issues that extend beyond the team and their supervisor. He shared, “While the focus of the state of the team meetings is intended to be work and efforts within the team’s ability to impact, issues ranging from specific changes due to legislation as well as on-going issues such as communication, have been part of team conversations.”
Putz commented, “We’re learning a lot in this first go-around of the survey and the team discussions. Given the range of work environment issues beyond engagement being discussed, work is needed to better identify and share concerns that have impacts beyond individual teams.”
When talking specifically about the survey questions, Blaesing said the “I have a best friend at work” question generates a lot of discussion. “It’s a great way to explain that these questions have no right or wrong answers. It’s isn’t black and white. We talk a lot about seeing the shades of gray and how that’s okay.”
“There are also things we can improve about the survey process itself,” she shared. “A better understanding of the questions would help, as well as making it easier for folks in the field to take the survey.”
The experiences of each team and their #Engage champions are going to be somewhat different, but the goal of these meetings and the plans that come out of them is to open up lines of communication, identify ways we can be more involved in what is going on in our workplace.
For more about the #Engage initiative go to https://iowadot.gov/EmployeeEngagement/