The current methods for measuring employee engagement are in need of change because they are outdated and are causing “big problems”, according to a US-based work futurist.

Writing in, columnist and futurist Jacob Morgan argues that in the traditional model, an employee just needs to be average. There is no room for the outstanding employee who engages in a spot of blue sky thinking.

Morgan describes three types of employee within an organisation under the traditional method: there is the actively disengaged or unhappy employee; there are those who are not engaged and working on autopilot; and those that are engaged, who drive the company forward with their proactive attitudes.

Engaged employees, though, are what organisations should expect. As Morgan says: “Everyone else is either below or very below average. Imagine what kind of organisation this creates!”

A Gallup poll put worldwide employee engagement at a 13 per cent low. Morgan tell us this figure is “unimaginable”, adding: “perhaps what’s more shocking is that this number has barely budged in years!”

(We can’t help but point out here, that the first customer of AvinityAlive is achieving 70% engagement in just 3 months.)

One of the issues is understanding employee opinions. Morgan says that in many organisations, employee engagement surveys are too long and exhaustive and don’t make much sense for measuring the pulse of an organisation, so moving towards short single-question pulse surveys regularly is ideal.

Avinity’s Adi Reed agrees and suggests that shorter regular surveys can give a better reading of the pulse within a company and areas impacting engagement can be reviewed. In particular, she recommends getting down to the shop floor and talking to staff.

“The team running the survey are often not close enough to all employees to understand the real root cause – so go out to the people,” she advises. “Ask them for anonymous feedback and what the solution would be.”

In reviewing this, Reed recommends setting up action groups to deal with issues cited. “The groups should be made up of a cross-section of employees, not necessarily those affected by the problem, give people power (through a budget) and most importantly a timeframe to come up with real people-led solutions and report back to the board for sign off and implementation.”

Interestingly, Morgan was told by Pat Wadors, CHRO at LinkedIn that it’s a good sign of engagement if employees show up to work each day wanting to create a sense of belonging for others whilst “focusing on an action is better than focusing on a feeling because it looks at a tangible impact”.

Ultimately, it’s all about understanding root cause. Reed says: “A survey telling employers that people feeling overworked often is seen as a ticket to get in more staff…. but could it mean offering flexible working or introducing a mandatory no work after 6pm policy? Or could it mean that there isn’t good enough performance management in place and few are carrying the workload of many?”