'See the emotions of your employees'

'See the emotions of your employees'

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This is a guest post from Spark Engagement Inc.
(Member since 2021)


Jacqueline Throop-Robinson
Founder, Spark Engagement

What are employee-engagement surveys typically? At essence, they are opinion surveys. They tell you what your employees think about communications within the company or what they think about their leadership or others’ commitment to quality; but, engagement is an emotion. It’s about how we feel when we are at work. It’s an emotion that describes our overall feeling of our work experience.

At a basic level, is it a positive feeling or a negative feeling? Or perhaps neutral?

For decades we’ve focused on consulting employees, gathering input on what they think and tapping into their ideas to help support innovation. This is great but we have missed another critical facet of life at work: how your employees feel. In fact, we’ve often told employees to “leave their emotions at the door” or have coached employees to be less emotional and more professional when at work.

So, why should leaders want to know about emotions? Because emotions direct decisions. We have been schooled to believe that our rational brain is in the driver’s seat. That is sometimes true, but more often than not, it is our emotional brain that takes a stand and drives our actions. Many, many experiments have illuminated the aggressive participation of our emotion-driven animal brains in all kinds of decision making (Harvard Business Review, January 2006). This is not news. Neuroscientists have known this for a long time.

However, employee engagement surveys continue to probe for opinions rather than presenting leaders with an emotional profile of their workforce. When we know how our employees are feeling, and we know what’s generating these emotions, we can respond thoughtfully and with positive impact.

At Spark’d, our science identifies eight dominant emotions that describe how people feel at work. We know what generates these emotions. There are two simple but powerful ingredients that, in different combinations, create either negative emotions: Disconnected, Stagnated, Unfulfilled and Frustrated, or a Neutral feeling; or, if we are lucky, positive feelings: Energized, Engaged and Passionate.

What are those two ingredients? Meaning plus Progress.

When we see our work and careers as highly meaningful and we are also experiencing a high sense of progress, we are going to be “in the zone” or passionately engaged.

Anything less than high meaning and progress, produces other emotions. For example, very high meaning combined with no sense of progress produces Frustration. We care and we are taking action, but we are not experiencing the forward movement or progress we need to experience the flow of passion.

When we see the emotions of our employees and understand what blocks or supports Meaning and Progress, we can take action and move the dial in significant ways on employee engagement.

When selecting an employee engagement survey, ensure it actually measures emotions rather than strictly opinions and that the data as presented is actionable. Then, you will see great results from your efforts!

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