What does your survey data tell you about the morale / mood / ‘tone’ within your business at the minute? Feel you’ve got a good grip on things? All tickety–boo?

Conventional survey data can only ever provide a partial, often sanitized,

Try a little walking around; take the air.

In the spirit of enlarging our understanding of those elusive terms ‘engagement’
and ‘productivity’, a few of us colleagues have been visiting various business
reception areas, breathing it all in. We’ve been experimenting with that beautifully named data collection technique, the ‘sniff test’, and anonymously visiting client and non-client companies across sectors and markets.

It is harder than you might think to sit, watch, and soak up what is (really) going
on: but incredibly informative and rewarding.

Tolstoy’s oft-quoted comment in Anna Karenina ‘all happy families are alike; each
unhappy family is unhappy in its own way’ may even apply to companies. It is possible to get a really powerful sense of whether working at that company is a happy experience just by watching and listening.

With enough input to fuel a large-scale drama, certain ‘happy’ indicators struck us
as particularly interesting.

  • A CEO who came to greet an interviewee herself.
    The candidate was visibly pleased and pleasantly surprised.
  • Relaxed and cheerful acknowledgement at reception.
  • People moving faster into the building than out
  • coffee / snack bars / cafes were not uniformly successful – it was the
    people running them and whether they ‘knew’ the ‘customers’ that
  • Overheard between employee team members– ‘is there anything else that
    would help you’?
  • Displays of work and output in reception. Much happier than those where
    the minimalist look dominated.
  • Security guards that smiled and helped.
  • Chatter rather than silence
    Talking in the lift lobbies. (unhappy offices were more like train stations)
  • A sense of ‘being welcomed’ rather than ‘being processed’.
  • Colour and movement.

Try the ‘sniff test’, and be amazed at the strength and clarity of the data you
receive; data that is much more truthful than that found in an annual satisfaction
survey.  To really know what’s going on in your company, stop and sniff the air.
If what you are sensing disappoints, don’t just re-issue the same inadequate and
misleading survey.

You need to know what’s really going on*.

Undertake some genuine enquiry, find out what really matters to people.  Then you’ll see what needs doing, and where.

You’ll soon be picking up that sweet smell of success.

*I also work with a wonderful team who know how to do just this, how to deliver a
swift, actionable, values-based diagnosis.

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