23.05.2013

Great CEOs Focus on Drivers, Not Results of Engagement Surveys

"The score takes care of itself." Bill Walsh–legendary coach of the San Francisco 49ers

As a CEO you get used to reading a lot of numbers. P&Ls, balance sheets, sales pipelines, marketing reports, operational metrics–good companies live and breathe data and as CEO, part of your job is to synthesise all that information and decide how to act. At the end of the day that is the most important part - what are you going to do? If data does not lead to action then it rapidly loses value.

So what do you do when you get to see some data on your people, your company? First, you'll probably look at your headline scores - in the context of an engagement survey that'd be your overall engagement score. Then you'd cast your eye across all the different factors that feed into that score...how did management do? Or leadership? What is collaboration like? Where are we at with work/life balance?Pretty much everyone quickly focuses in on their weaknesses–for example, only 40% of people feel they are paid appropriately (make that 10% if you are in the Valley!), only 25% think that systems are as efficient as they can be, etc. Straight away you start thinking about how you can fix and/or improve these areas.bout how you can fix and/or improve these areas.

If you've ever done any coaching then you're probably used to the idea that it can be more effective to focus on improving strengths rather than trying to patch up all your weaknesses. With this in mind you might look equally at where you did really well. How do we build on that? If 95% of people believe that they are part of a team and teamwork is core to what we do what do we need to do to get that last 5%? By focussing on your strengths you remind your people what really matters and you concentrate on building a culture that is uniquely strong in one or two areas.But your scores, both good and bad, only tell half the story. Your scores are like a balance sheet - they tell you where you are but not where you can go. If you look closely at typical engagement questions you'll see that what they don't tell you is something is very important (ie if your people would recommend this company as a great place to work) they don't tell you how you can go about making it better.

This is where the concept of driver analysis comes in. A driver analysis is a statistical technique that is used to identify the results of which questions predict the outcome of other questions (usually the questions in the engagement index). It helps you identify not just which questions are scoring high or low but which questions will change the results of other questions. This is a very powerful piece of knowledge and it is crucial in determining where to act.

If we can fix just one thing what should we focus on to make the biggest improvement to our culture? This is where great CEOs focus their attention. Not what their scores are, but in understanding what drives their scores - and what they can do to make sure they go in the right direction.

Lets take this to the extreme and imagine we are given an engagement survey report that doesn't have any scores on it at all. Instead what you see if your results in rank order along with a mark that showed you which were the five that had the strongest correlation to engagement. What would you do with that report? At the end of the day that is all you would need to act and, to improve your culture. We have to remind ourselves that what we need is enough data to act with confidence - not so much that we lose sight of what we are trying to do.

Which is why when it comes to culture I think the important question is not "are my people happy or motivated?" but "what can we focus on to make the biggest difference"?

Do that and the score will take care of itself.

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