Employee engagement matters. A lot. In fact, according to a recent Gallup report, companies with the highest employee engagement outperform their competitors by 2.5 times. That same Gallup report found that 70% of the U.S. workforce was disengaged, and 20% are actively working to sabotage their employer's objectives. The number one influencer of team health? Manager performance.

If you are a manager, here are three reactions you might have that are guaranteed to prevent any improvements in team health:

  • Team health doesn't really matter. People will do the job I need them to because I pay them to do it.

You could be right, but only if they are doing something extremely simple and repetitive. For workers that interact with customers, or whose job requires creativity or judgment, on the other hand, the evidence is overwhelming that engagement makes a big difference in their ability to contribute to the goals of the company.

  • My team's health seems pretty good. I don't think it's a problem.

It's possible that you are right, but considering the high base rate of disengagement, the odds are against you. How would you know for sure?

  • My team is beyond hope. Improving their engagement is a lost cause, so I'm not going to put any energy into trying.

That's possible also, but if their manager got the team to where they are today, the same manager (or maybe a different one) can probably get them to a new place.

The thing that is so powerful about the lack of engagement is that there are so many ways to fix it, most of the time at almost no cost. But the first and most powerful step is to simply start measuring it, and the easiest way to do that is to measure team health. Decide on the course of action to take only after you baseline your team's current health and understand where the most important improvements need to happen.

And here's the best news of all. Measuring team health couldn't be easier. Here's how:

  1. Get the team together and ask them what matters to them. Find out why. Dig deep. If there are a lot of things, try writing them down on sticky notes and grouping them on the wall.
  2. Have the team choose three to five of the most important ingredients that best reflect their sense of team health. These should be things that they care about and can assess themselves, not a measure of their own performance to be judged by anyone else.
  3. Write them on a Kiwi Dial, or something similar, and post the dials in a shared team space.
  4. Make it clear to the team that anyone on the team can change the dials anytime they are inclined, anonymously if they choose. Nobody else is allowed to move the dials, including managers, business partners or customers.
  5. If a particular measurement is green all the time, consider measuring something else that has at least a little room for improvement.
  6. Periodically, maybe during a regular team meeting, discuss the dials. Consider ideas for how to improve the measures and try them out.

Not sure what to measure? Consider mastery, purpose, autonomy, (thanks, Daniel Pink) recognition, impact, and social belonging. Here are some examples:

  • Engagement
  • Collaboration
  • Impact
  • Executive visibility
  • Ability to move the backlog
  • Clarity of purpose
  • Fun

Remember, measuring team health is just one step towards better employee engagement, but this alone is often enough to trigger surprising improvements in performance. 

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