The Beauty Of Measures And The Scarcity Of The Right Ones At The Right Time

By Gregor Findlay - Executive and Team Coach at Courageous Development Gregor Findlay

There's a disconnect at the top levels of organisations between how we measure the soft stuff and how we measure the hard stuff. A gulf that doesn't need to be there. Especially when technology can quickly span that gap.

Where it's most apparent to me is in the area of employee engagement.

I'm an executive coach and I spend most of my time working 1:1 with leaders to help them deal more effectively with the challenges they face. One of the challenges that comes up more and more is employee engagement which shows how much traction this issue is getting. Many of my clients truly believe in the strong link between engagement and business performance. They're passionate about the happiness of their teams just as much as other goals.

However, when it comes to measurement and knowing whether or not they’re making progress and by how much they come unstuck. It’s hard to deliver evidence based leadership when you don’t have the right evidence! When it comes to hard performance metrics, organisations support their leaders with an abundance of detailed and importantly, timely information.

No surprise there but accurate and timely data on employee engagement that can be used to confirm or change direction is truly rare in my experience. This really frustrates both me and my clients. Let me give you a couple of recent examples.

The first is a company where the leadership has made employee engagement a strategic priority and commissioned a line management training programme as a key lever in gaining a positive shift in engagement. My question was "how are you going to measure the impact of the training and how quickly can you get data to tell if it's working or not?" I (sadly) got the expected answer of "our annual employee staff action survey" This was 9 months away! By this time 75% of their staff would be through the training with no concrete data to tell them if this huge investment was working or not. This is typical. Not only are these surveys trailing edge measures, they’re trailing months and months behind the point where they would be useful. That would never happen with a financial investment, would it? And how many investments can have the same impact on a business as a significant shift in employee engagement?

My other example is from only last week, coaching a leader where the engagement of his team is one of his top priorities. This individual is fervent in his desire to make a difference here but yet again, the only organisational measure available to him is the staff survey - 6 monthly this time so a smidgen better.

In lieu of anything better, we’ve had to work on creating intuitive and qualitative measures to allow him and his team to measure their progress. This is something I often do with leaders - creating more instant leading edge measures.

A good example would be ‘Buzz’ in a sales organisation. I can walk in and immediately score Buzz out of 10 and know if I need to take action. 9/10 is great, 3/10 needs immediate action. Okay for a single area of the business in a tactical sense but not good enough for an organisation wide measure that tells the top team so much about the impact of their leadership, how much discretionary effort they can expect from their people and which direction their staff turnover is going.

I’ve been thinking for years now that there must be a better way and this is why I find what Thymometrics is doing so exciting. Finally, leaders can hope to get the sort of support for this critical ‘soft’ measure that they get for their ‘hard’ measures.

Courageous Development help leaders and teams achieve breakthroughs in performance through innovative coaching approaches, specific to their context, with a clear focus on sustainable business benefits. Contact Gregor for more information: or +44 (0) 7967 601769.