Using Data to Drive People Performance


There is an emerging field of data science that helps leaders understand the level of engagement employees feel in their jobs. This kind of information can be extremely valuable. For instance, engagement data can offer clues about customer satisfaction. It can surface management capability gaps. It can also provide early warning signs on teams struggling to get along and perform.

More importantly, Gallup research suggests that companies with high engagement enjoy 20 percent more productivity and profitability than companies with low engagement.

Before you try to measure your employees’ engagement, it’s important to understand a few things about the various forms of assessment in this growing industry.

Annual Engagement Surveys

Many companies still use annual engagement surveys where employees rate their own level of engagement. These surveys are good for the purpose they serve—to measure how engaged employees perceive themselves to be—but they do not gather objective data or evidence about employees’ actual engagement levels. Self-assessments are also subject to a number of biases (e.g., availability bias) and dishonesty (e.g., people telling you what they think you want to hear).

Direct Measures

To gather concrete evidence about employees’ engagement levels, companies are seeking to understand actual engagement as opposed to self-perceived engagement, including:

  • the amount of work occurring outside normal working hours
  • the breadth of an employee’s network within the company (e.g., do they spend time with people outside their team or department)
  • participation rates in ad-hoc meetings vs. recurring meetings
  • time spent collaborating with customers outside their normal scope of work

Other Metrics

Drilling down into how employees spend their time, companies have discovered other indicators of employee engagement, such as:

The quality and amount of time a manager invests in an employee.

  • For example, engagement typically increases when an employee spends one-on-one time with his or her boss on a weekly basis. Engagement also increases when employees are exposed to their boss’ boss (in meetings or informally) AND when an employee’s manager has a strong network in the company.

The amount of time spent with other engaged employees.

  • For example, engagement is infectious, so if an employee is surrounded by other engaged employees, it’s likely he or she will stay engaged longer.

The number and quality of an employee’s relationships.

  • For example, if employees have lots of frequent and personal interaction with other employees, a stronger “family feel” is created. This creates stronger bonds and higher engagement. Also, if someone comes and goes out of social groups, it could be an indicator of low engagement.

The quality of the work schedule.

  • For example, engagement decreases when people spend more time in large group meetings where they are simply an audience member rather than an active participant. Many companies suffer from too many meetings, but smaller meetings usually mean higher engagement.

Implications for Adventure Park Leaders

Employee engagement is the fuel that keeps your financial engine going. Without it, there is no reason for customers to come to your parks. Your business would suffer without engaged employees.

While there are companies that measure all the variables mentioned above, only you know what your business can afford to implement. Here are a few initial steps you can take to drive employee engagement:

  1. Don’t underestimate the power of simply asking how your employees are doing. Giving them an opportunity to honestly share their experience helps them feel heard and valued.
  2. Notice what your employees are doing, and thank them regularly.
  3. And finally, do not hesitate to fire employees who are completely checked out. You will likely gain the respect of your remaining employees for holding someone accountable to a high standard of behavior.

About Author

Paul Thallner is CEO and Founder of High Peaks Group, a U.S.-based consulting firm that helps leaders and organizations tackle the tough people challenges in order to accelerate business performance.

1 Comment

  1. The suggestions at the end of the article are GOLD.

    I would include an additional step between steps 2 and 3. Let’s call it step number 2.5. If a staff member isn’t living up to their potential and/or your expectations, have a conversation with them and offer your support. If things get better, you will have strengthened your relationship with that person. If they don’t get better, you can feel more confident about moving on to step 3.

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