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Engagement… Do We Ask The Right Questions?

Lately I have been wondering about employer engagement and why it always seems to be so low. In a recent Gallup survey, 34.1% of the people polled said their work was engaging. That statistic has inched up (and down) since 2011, the time Gallup started asking the questions online like:

“There is someone at work who encourages my development.” (Gallup)

The thing about these particular questions relates to who asks it. The company. And, passive questions lead to environmental answers. Could it be the questions we ask employees are the wrong ones?

Passive Questions Vs. Active Questions

With $10 billion in training annually, but only a 34.1% return on engagement, companies seem to be going about asking these backwards. For one thing, the companies ask static (or passive) questions and puts all the onus of the employer.

Trust is a bidirectional, or a company doesn’t earn it.

I recently read a book called Triggers by Dr. Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter. The authors suggest that the environment plays a major role in how these questions are answered. At first I scoffed at the idea. Then, I put my critic away and just read the book. And I came away with a whole new appreciation for environment.

Instead of focusing on the employers having all the responsibility for providing an engaging environment (like passive questions do), they recommend having the employees engaged in the questions themselves. The active questions spur employees so they share responsibility and accountability for the outcome.

“Did you do your best to set clear goals for yourself?”

Interesting thought. Do taking the passive questions asked by Gallup, and making them active as suggested by Goldsmith and Reiter, turn out better results? I guess it depends upon what you want to know.

Engagement Includes Environment

Looking over my career of wanting to make a better work environment for my people, Gallup has really come through by offering clear advice on what to do. Managers below me gained a new respect for people because they had a new environment management system to work in. But… I think that if I had the information in Triggers to guide the way, the results would have been even more positive. Simple answers lead to big results.

As in every great book, Triggers only answers some of the questions. I think that Triggers helps to qualify the questions so that your results can become more accurate… for you.


“There is someone at work who encourages my development.” (Gallup)

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