Employee engagement has become an industry centered around surveys. Companies compete on who has the best, the biggest, the most comprehensive solution – despite the fact there’s not much difference between any of them. After all, there’s only so many ways to ask employees how engaged they are in their work…
Because survey companies are competing on proprietary knowledge, a couple of things are going to happen. Firstly they need to find a special something that sets them apart from the competition, which requires R&D. Then they need to hire sales and marketing guys to tell everyone what that difference is and why it’s better. That’s a lot of lattes. All that money going into creating and promoting a point of difference is only going to send survey costs one way. (Hint: they don’t get any cheaper)
If you can’t or don’t want to pay the big boys big bucks to run surveys for you, you still have options. You can borrow some inspiration from past surveys, send out emails using SurveyMonkey and come away with largely the same result. You’ll know who’s engaged, why they feel the way they do, and what they think can improve their position. It might not be glossily presented, but it also won’t cost nearly as much. Plus you can tweak and re-run the survey without having to pay for the privilege…
So if you can get results without spending a fortune on engagement surveys, why is everyone still obsessed with how much better – how much worthier of the price tag – their version is than everyone else’s? If surveys are all essentially the same, why not just share and standardize the questions and let everyone get on with it? Then engagement specialists can focus on helping companies implement positive changes, not on tweaking wording or polishing presentations.
Open source engagement: one survey to rule them all
The open source concept comes from the computer software field. It describes software where the originator provides rights to study, change and distribute the software to anyone for any purpose, and usually implies that the software is developed in a collaborative and public manner. This collaborative development by multiple independent and diverse sources generates a better result than any one company can develop or sustain long term. In a nutshell: everyone works together to make the thing the best that thing can be, then everyone uses that thing.
Meanwhile, we have specialist engagement survey companies telling us they have the perfect survey, the perfect methodology, the perfect consulting team. All of them, all perfect. And all of them ever so slightly different: there’s no one best ‘thing’ for everyone to use.
So if you’re a company wanting to measure employee engagement, how do you choose a survey? Why should you choose between barely distinguishable alternatives? Why can’t we just… make the best thing so everyone can use it?
Making open source engagement happen
Open source engagement would need all of us – practitioners, academics, scientists, thought leaders and industry luminaries – to agree to collaborate on creating a single, valid, inclusive, evolving and usable measure for engagement. We can then ask the same questions, easily aggregate and compare responses and implement tweaks and optimizations across the board. Gradually a shared understanding builds and a holistic picture emerges of engagement across the working world…
Basically it’s utopia for engagement nerds.
The methodology and rules for making this sort of thing happen have already been refined by countless open source software projects, and successfully used to create things like books, music and social impact programs. We know it works across disciplines and we want to make it happen for employee engagement.
So here it is: an open-source employee survey with 25 questions for measuring experience, mood and engagement. We’ve thoroughly researched and tested it (we’re using it now) but we think we can make it even better. We want you to use it, and review it, make suggestions and tweaks and improve it. For all of us.