Employee engagement is an outcome of a healthy culture

Culture Managagement

I’ve been taking part in an interesting conversation recently on the subject of employee engagement surveys. I’m a firm believer in involving people who work in a company in the ‘decision informing’ and decision making of a company. “Two-way inclusion” is vital. That said …

What’s more important, organisational performance or engaged employees?

Is it more important that your organisation is performing the way it needs to, to meet your business objectives – or that your employees are well engaged in their jobs?

We believe you can have your cake and eat it

These dynamics impact each other, they’re both important parts of the organisational system.

When we looked for a survey methodology that captured both dynamics, we were looking for a way to measure employee engagement AND measure the impact of organisational culture. In the course of our research, we surfaced some valuable insights:

The ‘pros’ of traditional employee engagement surveys
  1. They send a message out to the people that the company is listening
  2. They give employees a sense that their feedback can make a difference (which is true, when acted upon)
  3. They provide genuine insights from an employee perspective
  4. They’re a useful tool for managers to help focus their team efforts as the data is often cut by team
  5. And there’s a known, positive correlation to engagement and company performance.
The ‘cons’ of employee engagement surveys
  1. They usually ask questions from the perspective of “I” not “Our Company”. They’re very much about one’s self, they generally don’t ask the individual to take a company view – so they’re missing a trick.
  2. Employee engagement surveys capture the moment – how the employee is feeling NOW – they’re far less effectiveat checking on the longer term.
  3. They tend to miss out the critical elements driving a company’s culture and business performance.


Many traditional employee engagement surveys don’t spot the dysfunctional silos in an organisation, misalignment, or low trust. They don’t provide indicators to evidence where, exactly, the capability is lacking. And they don’t surface the long-term, shared vision – even though they may report employee engagement as being quite high.

Bob Ferneythough, HR Director of Henkel

Bob Ferneythough shared his views on engagement surveys such as Gallup and Best Companies, in HR Magazine.  

“The most widely used survey at Henkel is that by US provider Denison Consulting. The methodology is based on 66 statements in four areas – our mission; business consistency (around our core values); involvement; and adaptability. If you imagine these four as segments of a circle, the survey allows us to see a highly graphical ‘wheel’ around how we are doing in these areas, how certain businesses compare with an average Henkel score, and how these scores change over time.

“We’ve done three global surveys using it, the last of which was in 2007, and the time before that was 2004, where we had an 80% response rate. We really believe in the methodology though. Our 2004 survey revealed a lot of variation throughout the organisation, including which leaders were working better than others. It also provided us with 600 new improvement projects that different areas of the business had to promise to implement.

“Of course, engagement surveys are only an indicator of a business’s health, and it is not a substitute for good management. In fact we call ours the ‘Culture Indicator’, but I still believe you need to have both. I feel strongly there is no need to run a survey every year, and that not all are ready to use. We modified our questions to include topics such as diversity and corporate identity because that was our focus at the time. We used to use Gallup, but because its questions were yes/no responses, we didn’t feel it got to the heart of an issue. In our new survey, we ask people to rate responses on a scale from 1 to 5 (from strongly disagree to strongly agree), which we feel gives more shades of opinion. “

What’s our conclusion?

We’ve adopted and developed the Denison Organisational Culture Survey (DOCS) for our clients. We’re delighted to be Denison’s exclusive UK partner for the marketing sector.

We’re very happy to share some insights with you about why we chose Denison — and how DOCS could make a difference to your culture…

Marina Lumley

Founding Partner

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