Okay, I’ll say it: we love metrics! Nothing makes us happier than being able to measure something. And it makes sense. One of the core ways that we support companies is by helping them leverage advanced analytics and data solutions.  

Like any organization, each of our teams has a set of KPIs. You can probably guess some of the things we’re measuring: revenue, client satisfaction, website traffic, sales and marketing qualified leads, social media reach… the list goes on and on. 

As the Future of Work movement and business mega trends — think digital transformation, total experience, social impact, personalization, customization, gamification — caught speed, we realized that there is also mounting pressure for businesses to modernize their approach to KPIs. After all, we can’t continue to measure as we did before when the business landscape has fundamentally changed.   

So, we asked a simple question; “What are we NOT measuring?” We gave ourselves no parameters or guardrails. No idea was too squishy. 

The brainstorm ensued. Could we actually find a way to measure things like… 

Innovation 

Collaboration 

Psychological Safety 

New Product/Service Stickiness 

Client Relationship Vitality 

Employee Engagement 

Ecosystem Strength 

We started moving on a number of these. We launched a new product — our KPI Finder— around helping companies measure what’s previously been perceived as immeasurable (more on that here). But today, I want to talk about how we set out to measure Employee Engagement. With the Great Resignation still in full force, employee engagement is top of mind for so many leaders right now. When we looked more closely at employee engagement, we decided to focus our energy on the concept of trust.   

In November, I wrote about the power of strengths-based teams, especially when it comes to strengthening the employee experience. But strengths-based teams, among other things, only work when there is a culture of trust.  

I’ve been reading “Work Better Together” by Anh Nguyen Phillips and Jen Fisher, which discusses how to cultivate strong working relationships to maximize well-being and boost bottom lines. They list three components of Trusted Teams:  

  1. Is diversity of thought valued in my group? Is groupthink our habit, or do we actively seek different ways of solving a problem? Do we value different temperaments and approaches, which drive innovation? 
  2. Can I share my own perspectives? Can I express a creative idea, a different point of view, a personal experience that differs from others, or a contrary opinion without being shut down? 
  3. Do I feel those I work with care about my well-being? When people genuinely care about each other’s well-being, they work better as a team.  

But why should leaders prioritize building trust within their teams? First and foremost, peoples’ feelings are important, but trust also impacts the bottom line.  

Alison Beard of the Harvard Business Review summarized the benefits in her 2020 article titled True Friends at Work. She wrote, “Your social connections are a strong predictor of your cognitive functioning, resilience, and engagement. Studies show that people with supportive coworkers have more work life balance and are less stressed. Teams of friends perform better. Gallup has highlighted that having a best friend at work makes you seven times more engaged, on average.”  

Teams of friends perform better. Why? Because there’s a sense of belonging that creates psychological safety, which aids problem solving and spurs innovation.  

BetterUp, a mobile coaching pioneer that drives transformational behavior change, completed a survey in 2019 of 1,789 employees across a diverse set of industries. When it comes to belonging, here’s what they found:  

  • Belonging is good for business. Employees who feel a strong sense of belonging, versus a weak one, experience a 56% increase in job performance, a 50% reduction in turnover risk, and a 75% decrease in sick days. 
  • Lack of belonging is costly. If all workers at a 10,000-person company felt a high degree of belonging, productivity gains would top $52 million a year. 
  • Belonging is the best recruiter. Employees who feel they belong are 167% more likely to recommend their company as a great place to work to others.
  • Exclusion hurts performance. A single incident of micro-exclusion can result in a 25% decline in an individual’s performance on a team project. 

Belonging and trust go hand-in-hand. Going back to “Work Better Together,” Phillips and Fisher write, “Relationships built on trust facilitate problem solving. When team members agree to hash out conflicting ideas or opinions respectfully, they open themselves to the possibility that an out-of-the-box solution might be suggested. When team members invite the most withdrawn introvert to bring ideas to the table, they increase the odds that everyone feels okay about throwing out ideas.”  

So, what did we do with this information?  

We launched a new initiative: User Manuals. It’s not a new idea, in fact, it stems from a 2013 New York Times interview with Ivar Kroghrud, the co-founder, former CEO, and lead strategist of software company QuestBack. Inspired by his time in the Norwegian navy, he creates a one-page personal user manual about himself to help coworkers understand how best to work with him, including his preferred communication style and tolerance for free thinking.  

“It made sense to me because I’ve always been struck by this sort of strange approach that people take, where they try the same approach with everybody they work with,” he told The New York Times. “But if you lead people for a while, you realize that it’s striking how different people are — if you use the exact same approach with two different people, you can get very different outcomes. So I tried to think of a way to shorten the learning curve when you build new teams and bring new people on board. The worst way of doing it — which is, regrettably, the normal way — is that people just go into a new team and start working on the task at hand, and then spend so much time battling different personalities without really being aware of it. Instead, you should stop and get to know people before you move forward.”  

Some of the questions we’re excited to ask our people: 

  • What motivates you? What about the work you do keeps you energized and fulfilled? 
  • What is your collaboration style? Do you need time to think about a problem or an idea before discussing it? Do you prefer to brainstorm with others on a problem or idea before beginning to work on it?  
  • How do you prefer to handle conflict? Do you prefer to resolve in real-time? Do you want time to reflect and separate before handling? How do you want people to approach conflict with you? 
  • What do people tend to misunderstand about you? 
  • What is something you are passionate about outside of work? 

We can’t wait to measure the impact of introducing User Manuals on trust across the organization, and in turn, on the employee experience. Later this month, my colleague Glenna will be diving deeper into this.  

But how will we measure trust, you ask?  

Check out our KPI Finder and drop me a note if you want to find out more about how to measure all the things that feel immeasurable.