Blog Engagement

Q12 alternatives: why pulse surveys can’t boost employee engagement

A large multi-national company runs a Q12 engagement survey. Six months later, they’re still running feedback sessions to agree action plans for the results. This sounds like a bad joke, but it actually happens. And that’s why one-off annual surveys aren’t a great measure of employee engagement. They are, by and large, a waste of time and money. So you need Q12 alternatives. Tools that provide weekly trends and regular analytics to proactively track engagement and enable you to take action to address concerns.

Thousands of HR teams run annual engagement and pulse surveys every year. But they just serve as a snapshot on a particular day for your employees. They don’t show increases or drops in motivation. And they don’t provide quick feedback for you to spot issues. So, as the HR Director, you need to consider your options and look at:

  • Moving away from an annual engagement survey
  • Q12 alternatives and how they work
  • Why pulse surveys don't change how your people feel
  • Using employee engagement and sentiment analytics to build engagement

Move away from an annual engagement survey

Employee 1: Your best friend got engaged last night. A meeting with your manager congratulates you - you're getting promoted. And a phone call tells you you've closed the deal and hit your best ever sales month.

Employee 2: You were up all night with a poorly daughter. You can hear the shouts as your husband discovers the washing machine's flooding the kitchen. The estimate for the new car battery’s just come through on email. And your mother-in-law's staying for the week.

When you use an annual engagement survey like Gallup's Q12, these scenarios impact your results. Employees' feelings on the day affect their scores. Employee 2 may be committed to the company. But perhaps they've had their promotion already. And if that happened two months ago, it’ll have little impact on their engagement scores today.

And that's the problem. Whether it's Q12 with its scientifically validated statements, or an internal pulse survey you wrote yourself, you only get a snapshot of data. And it’s all influenced by what else is happening for your employees at the same time.

Instead, you need engagement tools that provide trends. Teams where motivation's high. And role model managers who demonstrate great support and development. You need tools that aren’t anonymous so you can jump in when scores slip. And spot signs of growing disengagement and respond before it's too late.

Q12 alternatives and how they work

One of the big selling points for completion of Q12 is its anonymity. Employees complete it and no-one sees their individual scores. But that doesn’t always help the organisation. Or the employees. Managers make assumptions about who wrote which comments. And ongoing issues can’t be resolved because you can’t follow up with the individual directly. That's why you need a Q12 alternative.

A new way requires a different approach. Transparent discussion and detailed reports. It needs weekly check-ins to build an accurate picture. And in-depth analytics to show trends over time.

Employee engagement isn’t a static measure. It ebbs and flows with events and business change. You need to be able to track the impact of new initiatives or a change in direction. And identify teams who are thriving or struggling. So you need a tool that encourages communication. Two-way interactions to support increased attachment to roles and organisations. And mechanisms to understand what’s happening for your employees.

These tools, by default, aren’t anonymous. But they allow you to bring about cultural change. And create a business that’s focused on its employees. So you drive engagement and create longer term success.

Why pulse surveys don't change how your people feel

Some businesses advocate pulse surveys. And they do go a step further than a once or twice annual event. But they still don’t show you what’s really happening. A quarterly, or possibly monthly, measure of ‘another thing people have to do’ doesn’t show you what’s going on for them daily.

Engagement is a measure of attachment and obligation to the job, the manager, and the overall business. And it changes over time as different factors play in. So you need to look at how communication happens. And make it active and collaborative so employees feel supported.

Managers are responsible for 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores, so your engagement model needs to start with them. You need to have confidence they’re building connections with their teams. That they understand their people. And support their development needs. So introduce a new idea - that engagement isn’t a survey. It’s a continuous process of discussion and thrives on strong relationships between colleagues.

You need to make weekly employee check-ins a way of company life. And use the data submitted to get sentiment analysis to identify any areas of concern. It’s time to tell Q12 to shoo and make way for the new sheriff in town.  Employee engagement is for everyone all the time, so help your business build a shared commitment to each other.

Using employee engagement and sentiment analytics to build engagement

A key benefit of weekly check-ins is access to real-time data. You don't need to wait months for Q12 results. Instead, you can track specifics. Look at trends by team or department, role or region. And identify the impact of world events and local announcements on how people feel about work in real time.

You suddenly have the ability to see what's really happening in your business. To deep dive into issues and celebrate successes. Role model behaviours are obvious, so use them to inspire others. And analyse monthly analytics to highlight concerns early. So you can proactively support employees and managers and create stronger commitment to the business.

Not all organisations are ready for employee engagement. For some, it’s a step too far. But to find out where your business is, take a look at our HRDs Guide to Employee Engagement in a Remote Workplace. It’ll give you some ideas on where to start.