The annual employee survey is a common tool for measuring organizational health. It is not, however, meeting the needs of organizations or employees. Instead of offering key guideposts for change, it offers up a KPI that is hard to change and not well linked to organizational success.

By using energy mapping, organizations are able to view their employee engagement through the lens of the actual relationships and interactions among employees.

Whether framed as employee satisfaction or employee engagement, the idea behind the annual employee survey is that average employee satisfactions is a good indicator of how the company is performing and, presumably, what changes would be effective at improving the culture/ processes. Unfortunately, these surveys often do not yield the insights that senior managers can use to effect real change. Energy mapping and measurement addresses the major challenges with getting the most out of an employee survey.

Employee Survey Satisfaction is a Poor KPI

Think of your own satisfaction at work. When you think about whether you are happy or satisfied or engaged you inevitably think about your job as a transaction. I receive a salary to do a job within a broad set of organizational conditions (e.g. work processes, colleagues, supervisors, etc.) and my satisfaction is then my summary judgment about how I feel about my job. Aggregating all of these individual ratings gives us a satisfaction score for the organization. Is this telling us something important?

And it turns out that many employees are not particularly engaged or satisfied. According to Gallup 51% of U.S. employees are not engaged. Measuring employee engagement until now has not produced an engaged employee experience.

But why is a transactional view of employee satisfaction not useful? For one, the levers for increasing satisfaction are too numerous and often too individual to be effective.  John needs to be paid more.  Brianna is struggling with her manager. Casey is frustrated by corporate policy. In those cases where employees all agree on the problem it may be possible to try to address it. We all know that rarely is there a single frustration. Finding the real levers requires a different perspective.

Employee satisfaction or engagement treats employees like they are in a transactional relationship so the levers for change will be individual and hard to implement. Employees are, however, part of a network so the best KPIs will capture this essential aspect of the organization. It will also focus attention on what the organization needs to be effective.

Employees are Part of a Network so Measure it

There is a logic to the idea that satisfied, engaged employees are better than dissatisfied, disengaged ones. It seems like common sense. But being satisfied is not necessarily a predictor of how productive or effective employee are in your company. Being satisfied misses the human dynamic or culture of the organization. Your culture is not just the aggregation of individual views.

There is a better ways of capturing employee engagement: energy. Energy, the positive impact that people have on each other (to learn more click here), is the key. It has been widely shown that organizations that have higher levels of energy are more effective.

Energy can be Measured

Using a proprietary approach, we measure the impact that employees are having on each other by explicitly acknowledging that the organization is the dynamics of its human interactions. These impacts are then used to generate KPIs.

Energy can be Mapped

By focusing on the social network in your organization, we are able to see how the human interactions impact success. Are people well connected, facilitating collaboration and communication? Or are they disconnected and isolated? Are there parts of the organization that are better connected and/or more energized than others?

Energy can be Improved/ Changed

When organizations focus on energy they can develop a clear roadmap for making change. Energy can be refreshed. People and organizations can be recharged with the right tools so there is hope for change. The focus of this approach is also the organization not on individual grievances and issues so everyone can work together. Finally, energy is directly related to productivity and success so managers have a KPI that is actionable and related to their other metrics.

Super Energizers can by Identified and Leveraged

We call them super energizers.  These are the employees who have large networks in your organization and positively impact others. All organizations have at least some super energizers. These people offer you the opportunity to learn about what is needed in the organization. They are trusted engaged stakeholders. They can also help with communicating and effecting change. Traditional employee surveys tell you who is happy but not who is positively impacting the organization the most.

The employee survey needs to change.

One of the problem with employee surveys is that neither managers or employees strongly feel that employee survey data helps managers figure out what to do to change the satisfaction scores (hrmarketer). This is a major advantage of a focus on energy. Rather than trying to move the needle on attitude statements in a survey, energy KPIs keep the focus on organizational dynamics.


For more information, tools and advise about how to measure, map, leverage and heighten the energy in your organization, please reach out to
Richard Jenkins, Ph.D