Gallup’s Q12 Questions: Employee Engagement Survey

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How engaged are your employees? Do they know what is expected of them at work? Do they deliver consistently good performance? What are some ways you can gauge your employee engagement?

Only 13% of the world’s workforce is actively engaged at work. This is because employees become unmotivated or resentful when their relationship with immediate management is inefficient or hostile. The first step to improving your employee engagement is to measure it.

Here is how to gauge your employee engagement using Gallup’s 12-question survey.

How to Measure Employee Engagement

As a manager, how can you find strong employees and keep them motivated, focused, and productive without creating frustration through constant micro-managing? Successful managers throw out the rules of conventional management and create an individualized approach that focuses on the talents, weaknesses, and personalities of their employees.

Most organizations know that their ability to find, engage, and maintain strong employees is essential to their success. However, few know how to gauge how well they’re doing at that task. Some companies offer concierge services such as flower delivery or dog-walking to their employees to try to keep them happy. Others offer stock options and financial incentives. However, these services benefit good employees and bad employees alike. It may help them find and maintain employees, but it doesn’t incentivize engagement or reward strong performance.

To reward strong performance, you need to determine effectiveness. To do this, many companies use measuring tools such as retention rates, opinion surveys, and turnaround. However, these numbers are generic and imprecise. They don’t tell a company how they’re doing with finding and keeping strong employees. They tell the company how they’re doing finding and keeping all employees.

The Q12 Items

To determine how well you’re finding, engaging, and maintaining strong employees, you need a precise and thorough way to gauge the strength of your organization. Gallup Q12 questions are 12 survey items to give to your employees that help you determine the strength of your organization. Managers have the most direct impact on high Q12 scores because they interact with employees on a daily basis and dictate the tone of leadership.

Employees respond to the Q12 on a scale of 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). The items are as follows:

  1. I know what my company expects from me.
  2. I have the tools to effectively do my job. 
  3. I have the opportunity to put my best talents to use every day.
  4. In the past week, I have been recognized for strong work.
  5. My manager, or someone else at work, cares about me as a human being.
  6. Someone at work promotes my development. 
  7. My opinion matters.
  8. My company’s mission makes me feel like my job matters. 
  9. My fellow employees commit to doing good work.
  10. I’ve made a best friend at work.
  11. Someone has talked to me about my development in the last six months.
  12. In the last year, I’ve had learning opportunities at work.

The Benefits of the Q12 Items

A high number of “strongly agree” responses typically indicates a high mark in one or more of the following business goals: productivity, profitability, retention, and customer satisfaction. The reasons for this are as follows:

  • Productivity: Employees who understand expectations and have the tools to succeed are more productive than those who don’t have the necessities they need to perform. Also, employees who are satisfied in the workplace tend to be more productive compared to those who are unsatisfied.
  • Profitability: Employees can take different actions to affect profitability. This ranges from turning off their desk fan when they leave to negotiating more aggressively for the company. When employees feel fulfilled and connected in the workplace, they’re more willing to go the extra mile for the team.
  • Retention: Employees who are engaged and happy in their position tend to stay with a company longer. However, this depends directly upon their relationship with their immediate supervisor or manager. If an employee has a good relationship with their manager, they will likely stay with the company even if the company doesn’t offer significant employee benefits. On the other hand, if an employee has a poor relationship with their manager, they will likely leave the company regardless of incentives or employee services.
  • Customer Satisfaction: When organizations have strong internal relationships and high employee satisfaction, customers tend to be happier. This is because strong relationships between employees lead to higher levels of productivity and high employee satisfaction leads to low turnover. Low turnover ensures that employees are able to be consistent as they develop a routine with their fellow coworkers. This routine allows employees to give customers an efficient and consistent experience. 
Example: The Retail Stores

A large retail company used the Q12 items within its stores. After receiving over 28,000 responses from employees across the country, the organization saw an interesting trend between its franchises. Some stores reported back with a high number of “strongly agree” answers. However, others reported back with a significantly lower number of “strongly agree” answers. The discrepancy between their yearly performance is as follows:

Top 25% of “Strongly Agree” AnswersBottom 25% of “Strongly Agree” Answers
Sales BudgetOn average, these stores were 4.5% over their sales budget for the year.On average, these stores were 0.84% below their sales budget for the year.
Profit/LossThese stores ended their year almost 14% over their profit budget.These stores ended their year almost 30% below their profit budget.
TurnoverThe top stores maintained approximately 12 employees more per store than the bottom stores. This calculates out to about 1,000 employees per year. Because of the costs of scouting, hiring, and training, this difference cost the corporation about $27 million dollars over the course of the year. 

The retail company gave every store the same tools, incentives, initiatives, and rules, so what was causing the disparity in numbers? The answer was management. The Q12 Items revealed that direct management dictated the experience of the employees. Even though they were given the same materials and benefits, employees at lower-performing stores typically had lower levels of satisfaction and motivation because of their negative relationships with their immediate managers. 

The Q12 Order

The Q12 items are ordered in a specific way. The ordering of these items guides employees through a specific thought-process that shows their level of security and satisfaction with the company. Those levels are as follows:

Level/ Q12 ItemsSignificance“Strongly Agree”“Strongly Disagree”
Level 1/Q01-02These questions relate to the basic needs of an employee: expectation and proper tools.You know what’s expected of you and you have the tools to succeed. Because you can perform the basic function of your job, you can focus on the quality of your work.You don’t know what’s expected of you and you don’t have the tools to succeed. Because you can’t perform the basic function of your job, you can’t focus on the quality of your work.
Level 2/Q03-06These questions relate to the performance of an employee and the perception of how others view their work.You’re doing something that you’re good at and are being properly recognized for the effort you put in. You feel as if management cares about you and your development. Because you feel qualified and supported, you can focus on building relationships at work.You’re not doing something that you’re good at and aren’t being recognized for the effort you put in. You feel as if management doesn’t care about you or your development. Because you don’t feel qualified or supported, you can’t focus on building relationships at work.
Level 3/ Q07-10These questions relate to the relationships and interactions between the employee, coworkers, and management.Your opinion is valued at work and you feel that your job is important. You’re surrounded by people that are committed to doing strong work and you’ve made a close friend in the office. Because you have strong working relationships, you can use that support to help you focus on growth and improvement.Your opinion isn’t valued at work and you feel that your job is unimportant. You’re surrounded by people that have no interest in doing strong work and you haven’t made a close friend in the office. Because you lack strong working relationships, you have no support to help you focus on growth and improvement.
Level 4/Q11-12These questions relate to growth and improvement.You’ve been spoken to about ways to improve and feel as though you’ve had opportunities to use that information to grow and improve.You’ve never been spoken to about ways to improve and feel as though you haven’t had opportunities to grow or improve.

In order to build a productive and satisfied workforce, you need to focus on items 1-6 before you attempt to develop 7-12. They build a foundation of connection and trust that allows you to develop relationships and focus on growth. Aiming to solve the higher-level questions before you establish your base will lead to interesting concepts that you won’t be able to execute. For instance, if you haven’t laid out expectations for your employees, you can’t expect them to focus on the quality of their work because they have no reference for your definition of “quality work.”

Gallup’s Q12 Questions: Employee Engagement Survey

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Here's what you'll find in our full First, Break All the Rules summary:

  • Why only 13% of the world’s workforce is actively engaged at work
  • How to find strong employees and keep them
  • The 12 questions to ask your employees that help you determine the strength of your organization

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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