What really matters, part one

What really matters at work

Culture is the “it” of our current work moment. And for good reason, as Peter Drucker coined, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” The way things get done in an organization — the systems, behaviors, and practices — guided by a set of values, define its culture. (And sometimes the values that are actually lived are not the ones on the website.) How we work together drives our personal engagement and performance, which in turn determines how well the organization does.

There are a mind-boggling number of platforms out there to measure, diagnose, and make better the cultural elements in organizations that drive retention, engagement and performance. A big shout out to Culture Amp, a really well done and continuously evolving platform that’s the go-to for most of my clients.

For me, though, I keep coming back to Gallup’s 20+ year-old Q-12 Employee Engagement Survey tool. It’s simple, direct, and gets to the heart of what matters to us personally. While designed to be an organizational tool to take the pulse of employees, it’s useful for my clients to self-diagnose what’s working or not in their jobs, how they’re doing as managers, and one client even used some of the questions to check in on her relationship with her partner. (Not kidding.) She said it helped her zero in on a few things that needed some work.

12 things

Gallup’s Q12 questions were finalized in 1996 after decades of research identifying the elements of emotional engagement that tie directly to people’s willingness to go the extra mile for their company, and link to organizational performance — profitability, people retention, productivity, safety, and customer engagement.

A five-point (Likert) scale — Strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, strongly disagree — is used to determine whether employees are:

Engaged — highly involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace — psychological “owners,” that drive performance, innovation, and move the organization forward.

Not engaged — psychologically unattached to their work and company — they’re putting time, but not energy or passion into their work.

Actively disengaged — resentful that their needs are not being met and acting out their unhappiness — they undermine what their engaged coworkers accomplish.

Based on how they rate these questions:

  1. Do you know what is expected of you at work?

  2. Do you have the materials and equipment to do your work right?

  3. At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?

  4. In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work?

  5. Does your supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about you as a person?

  6. Is there someone at work who encourages your development?

  7. At work, do your opinions seem to count?

  8. Does the mission/purpose of your company make you feel your job is important?

  9. Are your associates (fellow employees) committed to doing quality work?

  10. Do you have a best friend at work?

  11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to you about your progress?

  12. In the last year, have you had opportunities to learn and grow?

So, what matters? (1) Knowing what you’re expected to do, and having what’s needed to get it done, (2) feeling like you are cared for, appreciated, listened to, and encouraged to learn and grow, (3) working with people who give a darn about their work and do it well, and (4) feeling that what your company does is worthwhile and you’re able to do what you do best each day toward that.

What matters most

A multiyear examination involving 50,000 teams conducted by Gallup beginning in the late 1990s, found that question #3, “At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day” most linked to team performance. Teams whose employees chose “strongly agree” to this question were 50% more likely to have low employee turnover, 38% more likely to be productive, and 44% more likely to earn high customer satisfaction scores. Deloitte confirmed this as detailed in the HBR piece Reinventing Performance Management, “...three items correlated best with high performance for a team: ‘My coworkers are committed to doing quality work,’ ‘The mission of our company inspires me,’ and ‘I have the chance to use my strengths every day.’ Of these, the third was most powerful across the organization.”


The Gallup Organization also knows a thing or two about well-being through their Well-Being Index with Sharecare. Next week we’ll take a look at what really matters across the index’s five dimensions of well-being.

Sunday Morning Reflection

Where are you on these questions? What could make your work just a little better for you?

Sunday Morning: 122