Mining The Big Data Of Employee Engagement

May 29, 2015 1 Min Read
completing the puzzle


“What do we know to be important but are unable to measure?” – Marcus Buckingham

As organisations grow, so do the need for ‘mining for data’ in the right places – to make sense of the immense amount of information and transactions (both internally and externally) so that we can improve profitability and productivity.

The real value in any measurement is not in reports about what had happened (lagging indicators), but rather the value is to be found in what it can confidently forecast about the future (leading indicators).

Nowhere is this more prominent than in the measurement of employee engagement – every growing company measures it, puts it on display and derives fancy-looking charts and trends but after the complexity of the big data of employee engagement, it only comes down to two simple factors.

Every effort to data-mine for employee engagement must eventually distil down to these two basic ingredients – everything else is superfluous.

  • Do I have a great boss?
  • Do I have a great job?

Hence, if you are facing a ton of employee engagement data and you need to make some simple sense out of it, the data ought to provide leading indicators as to how the managers are doing and also how much of a job fit does every employee have?

Let’s expand these two engagement tracks a little bit more.

The boss factor

According to Gallup, about 50 per cent of employees come to work not knowing what is expected of them. Sure, employees turn up for work and they can act busy or find something to do but do they know how their work connects to what really matters?

The great boss is someone who communicates clearly what is expected and then ensures that the employee has the right materials and equipment to do a good job.

In fact, according to Marcus Buckingham:

“It is better to work for a great manager in an old-fashioned company than for a terrible manager in a company offering an enlightened employee-focused culture.”

Another element of employee engagement that should be tracked is whether the employee senses that he or she is first treated as an individual. Ironically, it is only when I am first treated as an individual that I have the motivation to perform well as an employee.

Here is a quick test – Who have I recognised for doing a good job in the last seven days?

For your employee engagement data to mean anything, it ought to provide diagnostic linkages back to the day-to-day behaviour of the managers – else, there is no leading effect to the findings.

The four vital roles of the manager which should be tracked are:

  • Identify talent
  • Set expectations
  • Motivate
  • Develop

The job factor

According to Gallup, employees who have the opportunity to do what he or she does best every day is six times more engaged and three times as likely to have a higher quality of life.

Here is the key – the way to create engagement for the employee is not to talk about the job. In fact, when employees talk about what they do best, they rarely frame the discussion in terms of a job description.

In other words, when an engaged employee talks about his role, he is using terms which describes not a series of tasks to be accomplished, rather it is described in a series of satisfying moments.

A great job is defined as a situation of maximised overlap between one’s role and one’s soul.

The greater the overlap, the greater the job becomes.

Although there are many components that make up a great job like experience, knowledge and skills but the one part that makes that crucial difference is a personal one – it is your unique talents – the way you are naturally wired to think, feel and behave. When my job offers me the opportunity to exercise my unique set of talents, then I am no longer making a living, rather my life is in the making!

Unlike generations ago, when workers come to work for the purpose of finding a meal, today’s workforce is looking to find a sense of meaning.

This appears to be the trend as affluence becomes the norm and the workplace is becoming more than just a place for ‘doing work’, rather it is for doing meaningful work. The mantra appears to be – “I want my work to matter because I want my life to matter”.

The engagement imperative

In Gallup’s state of worldwide engagement study (2013), only 13 per cent of employees worldwide are engaged, 63 per cent are disengaged while 24 per cent are actively disengaged. This is a glaring leverage for productivity that most organisational leaders are missing out on.

Instead of purchasing the next greatest tool or system, have you considered a similar investment in improving the level of employee engagement?

Furthermore, without the right levels of employee engagement, even the best possible tools will be under-utilised because technology is only as good as the whole-hearted commitment of the user.

The next time you are planning to ‘data-mine’ the big data of employee engagement, consider the following preparatory steps to ensure that the data becomes meaningful diagnostics for developing great bosses and creating great jobs for employees:

  • Select a proven engagement survey which links results to managerial behaviour and employee strengths. For my clients, I recommend the Gallup’s Q12 survey.
  • Put in place a follow-up managerial development programme which focuses on addressing the gaps identified in the engagement survey.
  • Put in place a talent management programme to increase the engagement level of employees with potential for growth.
  • Enhance job descriptions to make it more outcome-based so that there is room for the demonstration of unique talents and strengths.
  • Enhance the performance appraisal process to focus on strengths while managing weaknesses.

As in most data-driven efforts, it is garbage in, garbage out. With human capital being the most under-utilised asset in today’s competitive environment, we dare not treat this subject of employee engagement lightly and approach this from purely an analytical perspective.

After all, isn’t it the right of every human being to be treated as a unique individual? This is the starting point of engagement that works.

Joseph Tan was the CEO of Leaderonomics Good Monday. His passion is to work with performance-focused leaders to capture the hearts and minds of their employees through a strengths-based and accountability-driven approach. Much of what is shared in the article above comes from his work as a Gallup-certified strengths coach. If you would like to enhance the engagement level of your organisation, email for more details. For more Be A Leader articles, click here.


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Joseph is a Leaderonomics faculty trainer who is passionate about engaging with leaders to transform culture in organisations. Previously, he was CEO of Leaderonomics Good Monday. He is currently based in the United States

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