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How to Measure Employee Engagement With the Q12

There are 12 needs that managers can meet to improve your employees' productivity. This approach to engagement is simple, and it works. These are the 12 employee needs that make up the items on Gallup's engagement survey:

Why It's Important

Clear expectations are the most basic and fundamental employee need. Employees who strongly agree that their job description aligns with the work they do are 2.5 times more likely than other employees to be engaged.

Employees need to grasp the fundamentals of their work, which are not limited to their job description. In many cases, employees are held accountable for work that doesn't match their job description, which can confuse and frustrate them as they try to do their job and make decisions every day.

What the Numbers Say

Globally, one in two employees strongly agree that they know what is expected of them at work. By increasing that ratio to eight in 10, organizations could realize a 22% reduction in turnover, a 29% reduction in safety incidents and a 10% increase in productivity.

What the Best Managers Do

The greatest pitfall of the first element is that managers assume the simplicity of the statement means they have a simple solution when their employees disagree with this element: "If people don't know what's expected, I'll just tell them." But helping employees understand what their manager and organization expect from them requires much more than just telling them what to do.

The most effective managers define and discuss the explicit and implicit expectations for each employee. They paint a picture of outstanding performance and help employees recognize how their work leads to the success of their coworkers, their business area and the entire organization.

Why It's Important

Of the 12 elements, a person having the materials and equipment to do their work well is the strongest indicator of job stress.

Despite the functional nature of this statement, this element measures both physical resource needs and potential barriers between the employer and employee. Employees get frustrated with their manager or organization for creating goals and expectations that seem impossible to achieve.

What the Numbers Say

Globally, one in three employees strongly agree that they have the materials and equipment they need to do their work right. By doubling that ratio, organizations could realize an 11% increase in profitability, a 35% reduction in safety incidents and a 28% improvement in quality.

What the Best Managers Do

"Materials and equipment" is not just a checklist of tools. It includes the tangible and intangible resources employees need to do their job. In today's workforce, information and empowerment are often as necessary as technology and office supplies.

The most effective managers don't assume what their team needs. They ask for and listen to their employees' needs and advocate for those needs when necessary. They also find ways to make the most of their team's ingenuity and talents when they cannot fully fund requests.

Why It's Important

One of the most powerful strategies for managers and organizations is giving their employees opportunities to apply the best of their natural selves (their talents) as well as their skills and knowledge. As the leading attribute employees look for in a new job -- and its absence one of the main reasons employees leave a job -- when people get to do what they do best every day at work, the organizations they work for get a boost in employee attraction, engagement and retention.

What the Numbers Say

Globally, one in three employees strongly agree that they have the opportunity to do what they do best every day. By doubling that ratio, organizations could realize a 6% increase in customer engagement scores, an 11% increase in profitability, a 30% reduction in turnover and a 36% reduction in safety incidents.

What the Best Managers Do

Successful managers get to know their employees as individuals and give them opportunities to apply the best of their natural selves -- their talents. They talk to each employee about their unique value and make adjustments to align work, when possible, with team members' talents. The best managers know where their employees excel and position them so that they are engaged and provide maximum value to the organization.

Why It's Important

Top performers are hard to find. And once an organization hires them, it needs to make sure these employees feel valued for their work and contributions, or they could be at risk of leaving. Employees who do not feel adequately recognized are twice as likely to say they'll quit in the next year.

Workplace recognition motivates, provides a sense of accomplishment and makes employees feel valued for the work they do. Recognition also sends a message to other employees about what success looks like.

What the Numbers Say

Globally, one in four employees strongly agree that they have received recognition or praise for doing good work in the last week. By moving that ratio to six in 10, organizations could realize a 28% improvement in quality, a 31% reduction in absenteeism and a 12% reduction in shrinkage.

What the Best Managers Do

The most effective leaders create a recognition-rich environment with praise coming from multiple sources at multiple times. The best managers learn how individuals like to be recognized, and they recognize them timely and often for achieving their goals and demonstrating high performance. They also explain why their performance matters.

Why It's Important

Employees need to know that they are more than just a number. They need to know that someone is concerned about them as people first and as employees second. The fifth element of engagement may seem like a "soft" aspect of management, but there are key payoffs when people work in an environment where they feel safe.

They are more likely to experiment with new ideas, share information and support each other in their work and personal lives. They are prepared to give their manager and organization the benefit of the doubt, and they feel more equipped to strike a balance between their work and personal lives.

In turn, they are more likely to be advocates for their employer.

What the Numbers Say

Globally, four in 10 employees strongly agree that their supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about them as a person. By doubling that ratio to eight in 10, organizations could realize an 8% improvement in customer engagement scores, a 46% reduction in safety incidents and a 41% reduction in absenteeism.

What the Best Managers Do

Few managers take defined action to meet this employee need because caring about someone else cannot be manufactured. But the most successful managers know employees as individuals, acknowledge achievements, have performance conversations, conduct formal reviews and, above all, respect their employees.

These behaviors build a work environment where employees feel safe experimenting with new ideas, sharing information, exploring opportunities for development, and supporting each other in their work and personal lives.

Why It's Important

Gallup data show that lack of development and career growth is the No. 1 reason employees leave a job. Development is part of the unwritten social contract workers expect when they are hired.

However, personal and professional development does not occur in a vacuum. It takes effort and attention. Employees need help navigating their career, whether that is through sponsorship, coaching, protection, exposure, visibility or challenging work assignments.

What the Numbers Say

Globally, three in 10 employees strongly agree that someone at work encourages their development. By moving that ratio to six in 10, organizations could realize a 6% improvement in customer engagement scores, an 11% improvement in profitability and a 28% reduction in absenteeism.

What the Best Managers Do

One common misunderstanding about this element of engagement is that "development" means "promotion." But they are not the same thing. A promotion is a one-time event. Development is a process of understanding each person's unique talents and strengths and finding roles, positions and projects that allow employees to apply them.

Great managers coach employees by identifying wins and misses, motivating them to go beyond what they think they can do, connecting them with potential mentors, and holding them accountable for their performance.

Why It's Important

The days of managers and leaders having to know it all are quickly vanishing as organizations accept the fact that they are facing unprecedented change, competition and stagnant organic growth. No leader or manager can survive alone, nor do they have all the answers. This element of engagement is powerful and measures employees' sense of value and contribution.

What the Numbers Say

Globally, one in four employees strongly agree that their opinions count at work. By doubling that ratio, organizations could realize a 22% reduction in turnover, a 33% reduction in safety incidents and a 10% increase in productivity.

What the Best Managers Do

Asking for and considering individuals' input leads to more informed decision-making and encourages new ideas that positively influence business results. The best managers promote open dialogue and provide honest feedback on employees' opinions and ideas -- supporting good ideas and addressing unfeasible ones.

Great managers create feedback loops, so people feel like they are involved in the decision-making process.

Why It's Important

The absence of many engagement elements -- job clarity, proper equipment and resources, work that aligns with one's talents, consistent feedback -- can create real obstacles to productivity. It's easy to see why employees need these elements to do their job well. The same cannot be said for the eighth element.

It is a strictly emotional need, and a higher-level one at that, as if employees cannot energize themselves to do all they could do without knowing how their job fits into the grander scheme of things. The data say that is just what happens.

If a job were just a job, it really wouldn't matter where someone worked. But employees want their job to have meaning. In fact, for millennials, this element was among the strongest drivers of retention.

What the Numbers Say

Globally, one in three employees strongly agree that the mission or purpose of their organization makes them feel their job is important. By doubling that ratio, organizations could realize a 34% reduction in absenteeism, a 41% drop in patient safety incidents and a 19% improvement in quality.

What the Best Managers Do

Many leaders and managers think that putting the organization's mission statement on a wall is enough for employees to feel this connection. It is not.

Leaders must ensure that the organization's mission and purpose are clear and aligned with the employee experience. Managers play a significant role in helping employees understand how their role and daily tasks contribute to the organization's mission. Great managers create opportunities for employees to share mission moments and stories about the organization achieving its purpose.

Why It's Important

Trusting that one's coworkers share a commitment to quality is vital to excellent team performance. And as work is becoming more interconnected, interdependent and project-based, this element is critical.

The worst performer on the team sets the team's standards. By a 6-to-1 margin, people are more upset with a colleague who has the ability but does not try than with a colleague who tries hard but does not have much ability.

What the Numbers Say

Globally, one in three employees strongly agree that their associates are committed to doing quality work. By doubling this ratio, organizations could realize a 31% reduction in turnover and absenteeism, a 12% improvement in profit, and a 7% increase in customer engagement scores.

What the Best Managers Do

Employees need to be in an environment where there is mutual trust and respect for each other's efforts and results. This starts with a deep awareness of work standards and team expectations.

Great managers do not stand by and watch their team erode. They establish clear standards of performance, hold employees accountable and foster an environment of excellence by recognizing and sharing examples of exceptional work.

Why It's Important

More than any other Q12 statement, "I have a best friend at work" tends to generate questions and skepticism. But there is one stubborn fact: It predicts performance.

Early research on employee engagement and the Q12 elements revealed a unique social trend among employees on top-performing teams. When employees have a deep sense of affiliation with their team members, they take positive actions that benefit the business -- actions they may not otherwise even consider.

What the Numbers Say

Globally, three in 10 employees strongly agree that they have a best friend at work. By moving that ratio to six in 10, organizations could realize 28% fewer safety incidents, 5% higher customer engagement scores and 10% higher profit.

What the Best Managers Do

The best employers recognize that people want to build meaningful friendships and that company loyalty is built on these relationships. But friendships at work need to be put in the proper context.

Managers should not try to manufacture friendships or to make everyone be friends. Rather, they should create situations where people can get to know each other.

The best managers look for opportunities to get their team together for events, encourage people to share stories about themselves and plan for time to socialize at work when it will not disrupt customer service or other performance outcomes.

Why It's Important

For all the complexity of performance appraisals -- balanced scorecards, 360-degree feedback, self-evaluations and forced grading reports -- the statement that reveals the best connection between perceptions of evaluations and actual employee performance is remarkably simple: "In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress."

This statement does not specify that the discussion is an official review. What is most important to employees is that they understand how they are doing, how their work is perceived and what the future holds. There is nothing wrong with formal evaluations, and there are many reasons to recommend them.

What the Numbers Say

Globally, one in three employees strongly agree that someone at work has talked to them about their progress in the last six months. By doubling that ratio, organizations could realize 38% fewer safety incidents, 28% less absenteeism and 11% higher profit.

What the Best Managers Do

When a manager regularly checks in on their employees' progress, team members are more likely to believe they get paid fairly, more likely to stay with the company and more than twice as likely to recommend the company to others as a great place to work.

Great managers have frequent conversations -- formal and informal -- with employees about how they are doing. In short, they are coaches, providing immediate, constructive and motivating feedback to help employees achieve increasingly better results.

Why It's Important

The desire to learn and grow is a basic human need and required to maintain employee momentum and motivation. This element is also critical in a time when companies are hungry for organic growth.

When people grow, companies grow and are more likely to stay in business. When employees feel like they are learning and growing, they work harder and more efficiently.

But when they have to do the same thing every day without a chance to learn something new, they rarely stay enthusiastic or excited about their jobs.

What the Numbers Say

Globally, one in three employees strongly agree that they have opportunities at work to learn and grow. By doubling that ratio, organizations could realize 39% less absenteeism, 36% fewer safety incidents and 14% higher productivity.

What the Best Managers Do

Successful managers challenge employees, create learning opportunities and frequently ask employees what they are learning.

Beyond providing training, they encourage employees to learn new skills or find better ways to do a job. They talk with employees about short-term and long-term growth goals, and they are open to allowing their employees to take on new responsibilities and roles.