So… you want to effectively understand what percentage of your workforce is engaged – but do so on a budget? For years, Gallup’s Q12 has been THE go-to question-set for many organisations that want to measure employee engagement levels in their workforce.
Of course, the questions are copyrighted and they’re Gallup’s intellectual property; in fact, I’d run the risk of being in bother if I even listed up Gallup’s Q12 here without their permission. If you want to have a look at them, see here.
If like me, you’re a bit of a rebel and would like to use the ‘spirit of Gallup’s questions’ to get a similar handle on engagement levels within your organisation, I think there’s an obvious hack. It comes in the shape of an improved, alternative question set that won’t get you into copyright bother and I’m sharing my hack with you for free.
Gallup has produced a sizeable amount of content over the years to provide insight into the research behind their questions. By understanding the purpose of each question, I’ve deconstructed and rewritten each of them in my own interpretation.
Behold… The Hive Q12!
Gallup Q1: The one about knowing what’s expected of yourself
Explanation: Gallup’s boffins have identified that engaging workplaces have a defined set of goals and outcomes and employees have the opportunity to set their own goals. It’s all about defining a clear picture of what good looks like and employees should have a clear way of measuring their performance against what is expected of them.
An even better alternative: There’s a tendency for an employee to offer up a positive response if the tone of the question influences her to feel that she’s being tested. It’s better to shift the weight of the question onto the heels of the employer.
Also, your employee might ‘think’ that she knows what is expected of her but unless she has clarity of the defined outcomes; her views might be misaligned with those of the organisation. Here, the question needs to be more specific.
Hive’s alternative: My performance is measured against outcomes and metrics that are clearly explained.
Q2: The one about having equipment and materials needed
Explanation: According to Gallup, great managers: identify what their people need in terms of materials, equipment and intangibles; and work with and empower employees to procure what they need.
An even better alternative: Materials, equipment, tools, resources, information… It’s not just physical, tangible things that your employee needs in order to go about his job well and feel engaged.
Hive’s alternative: I have access to everything that I need in order to perform well at my job.
Q3: The one about doing what you do best every day
Explanation: This question reminds me of Drive by Dan Pink. ‘Mastery’ is a huge driver of engagement. The opportunity to get even better at something you’re good at and put that into practice really ticks our engagement boxes. Gallup reckons that excellent performance is found when people are in job roles that match what they naturally do best.
An even better alternative: Recognising your employee’s strengths is important but, even more so, her manager, organisation and colleagues can play a vital role in helping her to see their strengths, validate those strengths and help to ensure that her strengths are being used.
Hive’s alternative: My strengths are recognised here and I put them into practice every day in my job
Q4: The one about receiving recognition every week
Explanation: An employee is three times more likely to quit his job in the next year if he feels like he’s not adequately recognised.
An even better alternative: How often is adequate? The required frequency is dependent on the employee – with some needing more than others.
I also think that recognition has to be meaningful in order for it to be effective.
Hive’s alternative: I regularly receive meaningful recognition for doing my job well.
Q5: The one about someone at work seeming to care about you
Explanation: “People leave managers, not companies.” OK, that’s true. Sometimes.
The quality of an employee’s relationship with her manager – especially if his manager can guide him and help him develop – has a big impact on his engagement levels.
An even better alternative: Does someone seem to care? This question feels like it’s skirting around the issue here. Would it not be better to simply ask whether or not the employee has a quality relationship with her manager?
Hive’s alternative: How happy are you with the relationship between you and your manager?
Q6: The one about someone encouraging your development
Explanation: We’re human. We like to learn, grow and develop; all things that can be accelerated by working with someone more accomplished and experienced.
Gallup’s research identified that greater gains were measured when managers focus on developing an employee’s strengths rather than concentrating on their weaknesses.
An even better alternative: This question is all about the employee’s perception of whether his manager supports him to develop the skills that he’s valued for.
Hive’s alternative: My manager supports me to get even better at the skills I’m valued for here.
Q7: The one about whether your opinions count
Explanation: Engagement levels are influenced negatively when an employee feels as though she is ‘insignificant or irrelevant’. Her engagement levels are positively influenced when she feels that she has access to channels of communication that allow her to make contributions to her workplace. How the organisation processes her ideas has an impact on whether or not she feels valued for her contributions.
An even better alternative: This is all about making sure employee opinions are considered and taken into account. Gallup’s wording is too open to incorrect interpretation by the employee in my opinion. She may read it as though her opinions will be actioned.
Hive’s alternative: My opinions are taken into account and considered here.
Q8: The one about whether the organization‘s purpose translates into feeling like your job is important
Explanation: We like to know that we’re making a difference. We like to belong to something of meaning and importance.
Organisations that are able to define, communicate and reinforce a purpose are in pole position. If the organisation exhibits values that the employee shares, it can have a significant impact on his engagement levels.
A clear understanding of his role contributes to the organisation’s purpose is a powerful thing.
An Even Better Alternative: The wording needs to shift the weight of the question onto the heels of the employer again in this one.
This is about understanding whether the employee understands the purpose or mission and knows specifically how his job directly relates to or influences it.
Hive’s alternative: The purpose or mission of the organisation is clearly defined and fulfilment of my job counts towards achieving it.
Q9: The one about people being committed to doing good work
Explanation: If an employee trusts that her co-workers share a commitment to quality work, it has a positive impact on her engagement. Gallup’s research also highlights that a definition of quality is important also.
An even better alternative: Gallup’s version lacks reference to the idea that quality needs to be defined. If quality isn’t measurable or defined – it’s not accountable.
Hive’s alternative: My co-workers are accountable for doing quality work.
Q10: The one about having a best friend at work
Explanation: There are several things going on here. Firstly, this question is about trust and whether the employee considers themselves to have someone that they can really trust ‘at work’. Someone that they can get support from when stressed or challenged.
Secondly, it’s about loyalty. An employee is much less likely to leave if there’s a strong sense of loyalty to his co-workers.
Hive’s alternative: At work, I consider at least one of my co-workers to be a true friend
Q11: The one about a progress discussion in the last six months
Explanation: Everyone is really good at at least one thing. Managers often focus on trying to iron out (or bash out) areas of improvement in their co-workers rather than amplifying her strengths – an area that Gallup’s research considers to be high impact.
Employees want to understand how they are doing. She wants to know how he can improve, make a bigger contribution to the organisation and wants to understand how he and his employer can work together to develop himself.
Even Better Alternative: Every six months? That’s just not regular enough for most people and I’d suggest that different people require different levels of frequency.
Hive’s alternative: My personal progress and development are important around here.
Q12: The one about opportunities to learn and grow in the last year
Explanation: In addition to having regular discussions about personal development and regular recognition, your employee wants to be able to see that her role contributes to their personal or professional development.
Even Better Alternative: I don’t agree with putting a timeframe against this. Employees should feel as though there are ongoing opportunities to learn and grow in my opinion.
Hive’s alternative: In my role, there are ongoing opportunities to learn and grow.