Engagement is turnover’s antidote. Engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave a job than their disengaged peers. Yet, when it comes to keeping close tabs on sources of disengagement, many leaders still struggle.
No wonder they’re struggling! As employee engagement surveys have become more comprehensive, they’ve become less actionable. Even reading the wealth of information these surveys provide can be overwhelming — let alone building a strategy to meaningfully act on their findings. Because they’re cumbersome, engagement check-ins remain annual undertakings, or quarterly at best.
In between surveys, leaders can only make assumptions about where engagement and the health of their cultures stand; assumptions that, if incorrect, can result in nasty surprises the next time they check in.
Luckily, there’s a solution for leaders who want to keep closer tabs on engagement and the health of their cultures: pulsing, or what we affectionately call “stealth feedback.”
Stealth feedback is a strategic series of short, simple surveys — one or two questions each — that help leaders spot engagement “red flags” in real time. Pulse surveys are anonymous and, owing to their simplicity, can be acted upon more easily and transparently.
Stealth feedback, or pulsing, increases engagement and transforms organizational culture for four critical reasons:
01. Leaders are perceived as more engaged
Consider two sets of leaders: Leaders in Group A conduct annual engagement surveys. The surveys are long and, even if they’ve been heavily “customized,” have a bureaucratic, boilerplate feel. As busy employees click through question after question, page after page, they start to tune out and think about all the things they need to get done before lunch. Few offer deep, comprehensive answers. Many don’t even finish the surveys. Worse yet, those who’ve been with the company for years don’t even start their surveys, since they know from experience most of the issues raised won’t be acted on anyway. Ironically, over time, the engagement surveys actually contribute to disengagement!
Leaders in Group B, on the other hand, “pulse.” Every week or two, they send out a one-question survey relating to engagement and cultural health. At first, the questions are more general. But over time, they get more and more specific. It becomes clear to employees that their leaders are trying — and trying very hard — to tune in to the employees’ real daily challenges.
In return, over time, employees become more honest. More people offer deep, comprehensive answers to specific issues, and almost everyone provides substantive feedback. Through follow-up pulses, leaders can probe further and develop a more nuanced, sophisticated understanding of their organization’s underlying challenges.
As a result, real problems get a fighting chance to get real solutions. As more problems get solved, employees perceive that their leaders are more engaged in forging a positive, productive, and purposeful working environment. Which, of course, fuels everyone’s engagement, performance, and service.
02. Valued behaviors become assets to leverage
Just like any other culture, organizational culture is driven by values; a handful of shared beliefs about who we are and what we are here to achieve. Values are lived through daily behaviors. Yet, human behavior can easily get off course, and values can get trampled on.
Pulsing provides a powerful tool to keep valued behaviors front and center, and link those behaviors to real world solutions. For instance, if cocreating innovative solutions is a core value of the organization, yet through pulsing leaders discover that interdepartmental collaboration is an issue, leaders can quickly follow up by asking employees where they are already collaborating well, and why they’re collaborating well in those areas.
Best practices can be established, tips can be shared, and cross-departmental work groups can be established – all within the span of a few weeks, instead of months or even years.
Without the honest feedback that pulsing enables, leaders might never know why interdepartmental cooperation sucks.
As leaders establish their pulsing rhythm and develop a vibrant, transparent back-and-forth with employees, the places shared values are lived best in the organization become powerful assets to leverage.
03. Misaligned behaviors get called out
Misaligned behaviors can more easily be redirected through pulsing than through cumbersome engagement reviews. When leaders pose simple, straightforward questions about why misaligned behaviors occur, it sends a powerful message that: (1) such behaviors won’t be tolerated; and (2) the leader is open to understanding the root causes of such behaviors. When people are offered a chance to dialogue around why misaligned, unvalued behaviors are being practiced, they take greater ownership of and are engaged in solving the core issues that exist.
04. Hidden issues get surfaced and resolved
To employees, annual and quarterly engagements surveys are often black boxes. Survey results go in, but nothing meaningful comes out.
Through pulsing, leaders can help their people feel that they are actually heard, affirmed, and supported to create substantive change. Engagement and cultural transformation is about alignment of intellect, energy, and effort. Pulsing provides the conduit for this alignment.
When alignment occurs, the shared culture that is created becomes a powerful filter not only for what does belong but for what doesn’t belong. Employees themselves become tuned in and invested in rooting out hidden issues and points of disconnection.
Engagement becomes self-reinforcing.
Transforming Your Culture Through Pulsing
If what you’ve read here makes sense to you, here are some recommended next steps:
First, download the Advanced Guide to Pulsing. It’s a quick read, and you’ll have several aha moments while learning pulsing tips and best practices.
Second, watch this brief (less than three minutes) Culture Leadership Charge video, where you’ll learn how engagement and keeping close tabs on valued behaviors in your organization are self-reinforcing.
Together, these two resources will help you take a step in the right direction toward measuring the right things the right way and creating a workplace culture that is purposeful, positive, and productive, every day.