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How To Measure The Unmeasurable

How do you know if your employees are engaged?

An engaged employee is attentive, committed, enthusiastic, and passionate. Unfortunately, attention, commitment, enthusiasm, and passion are all very subjective, qualitative things, which makes them near impossible to measure. It's like being asked how "nice" your dog is on a scale of one to ten (by the way, Estelle can be the sweetest or a gremlin depending on the day...); can you really assign a number to that?

According to a Gallup poll, employee engagement is on the decline, dropping from 36% of employees reporting that they're engaged at work in 2020 to 34% in 2021, and in early 2022, engagement fell further to 32%. Employee engagement -- specifically, improving employee engagement -- is a priority among companies today. It's a good thing to focus on, but it's a big struggle to quantify employee engagement, and then to figure out how to increase it.

Qualtrics looks at two kinds of data: X data and O data:

O data, or operational data, is the objective data that you're probably already measuring, as it is often generated by your operational systems. It shows us trends, it shows us what happened. O data is often heavily referenced when companies make decisions. Some examples of O data include how many interns you hired last year, the average tenure of the superintendents you have lost, or the ethnic diversity of your employees.

However, what O data lacks is why something happened.

X data, or eXperience data, is more subjective and more people-focused. This is where people's emotions and perceptions are measured. This data shows up in employee feedback on surveys, company reviews on sites like Glassdoor, etc. It's more of a qualitative in nature and provides the why to the O data's what.

These two types of data aren't strangers to each other; rather, they complement each other. When something odd shows up in your O data, you should analyze the X data for some leads as to why this new trend is emerging. For example, if you notice a spike in employee turnover for employees with less than 2 years tenure (O data), look into feedback new employees give to the onboarding process (X data). Or, if absenteeism is on the rise, get a pulse check on whether employees feel their workloads are unsustainable and are suffering from fatigue or burnout.

What needs to happen is that X data is given just as much weight as O data. It's important to know your employee turnover rate, but if you have X data to that can help inform why your turnover rate is what it is, you can:

  1. Get a better picture of the health of the organization,

  2. Be better informed during decision-making, and

  3. Gain a strengthened ability to forecast what the O data trends will be going forward.


Utilizing X data signals to your employees that you're listening to their feedback and incorporating it into decision making, so not only do you get a better idea of your company's health, but you can directly improve it!

By the way, one of the best places to get X data is through an employee lifecycle survey, so you're getting employee feedback at every step of the employee journey - from onboarding to offboarding. If you're interested in chatting about how to put a lifecycle survey together, shoot me a note!


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