I read in Gallup’s book on employee engagement that an employee’s view of the company they work for has everything to do with whom they report to. Even if you have a great culture, history, reputation, etc., if some of your people are working for an idiot, those people will not be engaged and they will think poorly of the company. The power supervisors at all levels have to ruin or make your culture and therefore employee engagement is huge, because employee engagement can make or break your company. That’s why I say you need to measure it.

At Roth Bros., Inc., a national service contracting firm, employee engagement was very important to me. We had many employees who were engaged and went above and beyond to serve our customers and their fellow employees. But we also had employees that were not engaged, the kind of people who would make comments like, “This isn’t in my job description,” or who would pass off customer matters occurring near the end of the day.

Measuring employee engagement became very important to me because I knew if I could move the needle on the percentage of our people engaged, we could improve customer service, employee morale and results. I found Gallup’s Q12 tool to be the best in measuring engagement, and it is proven: 10 million employees worldwide have taking part in Gallup’s Q12.

In studying the Q12, it really hit me how critical supervisors are to engagement. In fact, eight out of the 12 questions are directly or indirectly influenced by the supervisor:

  1. I know what is expected of me at work.
  2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my job right.
  3. In the last seven days, I have received recognition and praise for doing work.
  4. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
  5. There is someone at work who encourages my development.
  6. At work, my opinions seem to count.
  7. In the last 6 months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
  8. This past year I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

When I implemented this at Roth, I got some push back from supervisors. But I explained the importance of employee engagement and that this process was more about where the company was letting people down vs. any individual supervisor. If we had a supervisor who scored poorly, that indicated to me that the company didn’t train them correctly. All supervisors were given laminated cards with these eight things that they could do to improve the engagement of their people.

The Q12 is totally confidential and results where grouped by supervisor, division and by company overall. I was measured as a supervisor and then with the overall company score. I then had HR meet with all the supervisors individually to review the scores, discuss strategies they could do to increase their measurement and provided training. Overall we had a good but not great score. Everyone knew we were going to re-measure in a year’s time so we had the opportunity to improve.

We all know what happens when you measure something then add training and persistence to it. When we measured it again, the scores did go up but not as much as I thought they would. When I drilled down into why, I realized that some people shouldn’t be supervising others. We had promoted some people because of their technical ability, longevity and knowledge in the job or out of necessity because of growth. Yet that did not mean they had the makeup to be supervisors. That’s the company’s fault for not recognizing it and not the person’s fault. Getting the right people on the right seat of the bus is one of the most important things a CEO needs to do well.

I would encourage you to find a way that works for you to measure employee engagement, provide the training required to help supervisors improve and to reassign those who aren’t cut out to supervise. Follow these recommendations and your results will climb as your engagement improves.