Podcast: Employee Engagement Tools and Analytics

HR technology is rapidly changing. There are more choices than ever to help the HR professional manage with what is becoming an increasingly important business function. To measure, understand, and improve the employee experience, choosing the right solution is critical.

Join us as we walk you through what to look for so you can choose the best set of tools and analytics to meet your organization’s needs.

This episode is hosted by Justin Warner and includes contributors Christian Nielson, Joey Barry, and Jefferson McClain. The audio from this podcast is taken from a previous webinar.

Cost of a Bad Manager

The Cost of a Bad Manager

Employee engagement surveys are great at helping you find the cracks in your company.  They help you measure a number of things, but some of those items cost you more money than others.  Take your managers. According to DecisionWise research, employees with a negative perception of their manager leave the company at a rate of 56% more than usual. With the high costs of turnover, bad managers can cost your company thousands or even millions of dollars!  Care to find out how much turnover is costing your organization? Try our calculator.


Now What?

So what can you do? Our research shows that managers influence employee engagement for the better when they improve certain behaviors.  Tools like 360 degree feedback help leaders know where they stand with those around them so that they can then strategically pick which strengths to magnify and which behaviors to strengthen. So are you ready to invest in your managers, increase employee retention, and decrease your employee turnover costs?  

Learn more about our
Employee Engagement solutions.

View our Infographic on
"The Cost of Bad Manager"

Podcast: Manage Your Organization’s Stress Better

In this episode, we’re joined by a panel of DecisionWise consultants who discuss how to best manage the stress level of your organization.

We’ll cover topics like working through stress at your company and learning to identify stress triggers, as well as answering questions like:

  • How is the problem of stress manifesting and affecting engagement?
  • Are companies getting better at managing stress?
  • How do we coach clients on stress?

This week’s episode was hosted by Cecily Jorgensen. Our panel of consultants includes Charles Rogel, Dan Hoopes, Beth Wilkins, Stephen Mickelson, and Thomas Olsen.

Ask Your Employees The Most Important Question

Understanding your Employee Value Proposition can tell you why your employees work for you (and why they might choose to leave).

Do you know why your employees work for you? Suppress the desire to roll your eyes and respond with the no-brainer statement/question, “Uh… because they get paid?!”

The question of why employees work for you, and why they choose to engage in their work, may very well be the key to winning the ongoing employee engagement battle. Yet, few organizations are able to answer it in any depth.

The Employee Value Proposition

As customers, we have a perception of a company’s brand. We reason that “ABC company is known for their high quality, but XYZ company’s products are more affordable.” Or, “I refuse to shop at the mall store because their customer service is horrible!”

The brand (or perception of that brand) dictates the clientele and, often, the experience. An important part of that brand is Customer Value Proposition or CVP. The CVP defines the value of a firm’s products or services to the consumer. It answers the question, “Why should I buy from you?”

Both customers and employees expect certain things from a company’s brand, or “employee brand.”

The Employee Value Proposition is the answer to the question, “Why should I work for you?”

Knowing why an employee chooses to work for you will tell you a great deal about your brand (and your employees’ perception of that brand). Yet, when asked about why employees make that choice, all but the most in-touch organizations come back with responses like, “We pay well,” “We have great products,” or simply, “Because we have job openings.” Few are able to describe their employer brand in any level of detail.

Playing to your EVP strengths

During the past several years, our firm, DecisionWise, has worked extensively with two restaurant companies. One of these companies is a 400-location fast food chain, specializing in Mexican food. The other is a 100-location upscale restaurant chain. Attrition and hiring challenged these companies. In order to understand the factors behind these issues, we conducted organization-wide surveys and focus groups.

Case Study 1

People know the fast food company has good Mexican food at a low price (their CVP). That’s important to know, but when we asked the question, “Why would someone choose to work for you?” we were met with blank stares.

Through organization surveys and focus groups, we found that workers remained for three reasons:

  1. Flexible work schedules
  2. The ability to work with family and friends who were also working at the same location
  3. The reduced-price lunches they received once per week (a valued perk that equated to about 78 cents per employee per week).

We learned that if those factors were present, the odds of the employee remaining with the company increased dramatically (220%, to be exact). If those factors were not present, adios.

Armed with these findings, the leaders at the fast food chain implemented a recruiting referral program. They paid employees $100 per referral hired by the same restaurant location. Rather than discouraging families from working together in their restaurant, they began to promote it, bringing networks of friends and family together in the same locations. Additionally, they expanded their discounted food program to include one meal per four-hour shift. This generated tremendous goodwill. They understood and built their EVP.

Case Study 2

The upscale restaurant chain had a very positive reputation in the communities in which they operated. They were known for their extensive menus and cuisine. They clearly understood their CVP, but not their EVP. After conducting an all-hands employee engagement survey, as well as a number of focus groups, we learned something interesting about their EVP that was only suspected by company leaders, but not yet confirmed.

This company’s associates were engaged by factors that were different from those indicated by the fast-food chain. First, they took pride in saying “I work at XYZ restaurant” because of the well-known cuisine and name. Additionally, they valued the opportunities for growth and development, flexible schedules and satisfied customers.

Because this restaurant chain had concerns about employee retention, the company focused on leveraging their EVP. They established online communities, both internally and externally, where employees could “celebrate the brand” and show their pride in working for the organization. Next, they asked employees to provide input into the company’s seasonal menus, encouraging them to sample each of the dishes.

Then, they implemented an online work scheduling system in which employees could create a schedule that met their individual needs and family circumstances. The company understood its EVP, and made it a priority to build it. Employee retention increased dramatically, as did employee engagement and guest satisfaction, as a result of these positive changes.

Know your EVP

Why do your employees choose to work for you? Most organizations don’t take the time to fully understand the answer. Consequently, they miss a key component in understanding their employee experience. Understanding your EVP and the details around why they work for you begins with the answers to five questions:

  1. What is our organization’s “employer brand” (what current and potential employees know you for)?
  2. How will our employees respond when their friends and families ask the question, “So, how do you like working for XYZ?”
  3. Why would someone choose to join our organization (what is the value you propose to future employees)? What would it take to attract that person?
  4. Why would an employee choose to stay and engage in our organization? What would it take to keep that person?
  5. Are there any gaps between what appeals to your employees and what they experience? What would it take to close those gaps?

Keep in mind, EVP doesn’t just apply to the organization as a whole. Each company, function, location, department, plant, and even manager has its own brand. Your value proposition answers the question, “Why do our employees choose to work for us?”

So, how would you answer the question? Do you know your EVP?

DecisionWise Employee Value Proposition

Infographic: 5 Tips for Your Next Employee Survey

Download the PDF

Consider the following recommendations when determining your employee survey philosophy:

1. Remember the Purpose

The primary goal of a survey is to make the organization more SUCCESSFUL, not simply to gather data. It should help you understand how to ALIGN the employee experience with the goals of the organization.

While some surveys provide interesting data, they do little to support the organization’s STRATEGY. Your survey process will be successful if it allows the organization to gather and ACT upon information that makes the company more successful.

2. Think of It as a Campaign

A campaign is long-term and has a PURPOSE. It’s not a one time event. Engagement doesn’t start and end with a survey. The survey should be part of a larger PROCESS to address the whole employee experience.

Survey data provides excellent information that can be INTEGRATED with other performance data such as revenue, quality, and customer service.

3. Technology Isn’t the Answer

Technology simply provides data upon which to act. Don’t let the technology drive the process.

Organizations can get caught up in having the latest CAPABILITIES out of a survey software system.

However, survey technology doesn’t change the employee experience. The tried-and-true organization development concepts of “measure, act, and re-measure” are what create the CHANGE — not the technology.

4. Reconsider the DIY Approach

Administering a “do-it-yourself” survey using internal resources may be useful and practical at times, such as asking 10 people what they thought of the company party.

But surveying an organization of 50,000 (or even 50) may be best handled through the EXPERTISE and DEDICATION of an outside firm.

5. Be Prepared to Act

Only survey as often as you are prepared to act. Let this statement be your guide when it comes to FREQUENCY. If your organization doesn’t have the capacity or intent to act on a monthly survey, don’t survey monthly. Choose a different frequency.

Nothing says, “We don’t care” like receiving feedback and not taking ACTION.

UPMC and DecisionWise Win Gold for Excellence in Talent Management

PITTSBURGH, October, 15, 2019UPMC, a world-renowned health care provider and insurer, and DecisionWise, a leader in innovative employee engagement solutions, won a coveted Brandon Hall Group gold award in the Talent Management category for “Best Advance in Employee Engagement.”

The winners are listed at: http://www.brandonhall.com/excellenceawards/past-winners.php

In 2018, UPMC experienced an increase in overall favorability scores, the employee-engagement index— key engagement drivers, and overall participation. By building the employee experience infrastructure, empowering HR business partners, and designing transparent communications, UPMC solidified its employee engagement strategy as a best practice both within and outside health care. 

“We are so pleased that UPMC’s employee engagement efforts have been recognized by Brandon Hall Group, and we feel fortunate that UPMC trusts us to help them with their engagement efforts,” said Matthew Wride, DecisionWise President.  “We are confident that UPMC will continue to build an employee experience that will improve patient care and employee engagement across the entire UPMC health system.” 

“This prestigious award recognizes the years of focused, strategic work that UPMC has invested – and continues to invest – in our ongoing journey to enhance our workplace culture for all of our 87,000 employees,” said James E. Taylor, Ph.D., chief diversity, inclusion and talent management officer of UPMC. “We recognize that an engaged workforce is all the more committed to providing the best care to our patients and the best service to our members.” 

Award entries were evaluated by a panel of veteran, independent senior industry experts, Brandon Hall Group analysts and executives based upon the following criteria: fit the need, design of the program, functionality, innovation and overall measurable benefits.

“Brandon Hall Group Excellence Awards Program has recognized leading organizations for the past 20-plus years for the latest trends in Human Capital Management,” said Rachel Cooke, Brandon Hall Group COO and leader of the HCM Excellence Awards Program. “The initiatives that were honored are not only innovative, but fit the unique needs of the business and create truly remarkable success stories.”

Excellence Award winners will be honored at Brandon Hall Group’s HCM Excellence Conference, February 4-6, 2020, at the Hilton West Palm Beach, Florida. Select winners also will serve as presenters in breakout sessions, sharing their leading practices during the conference.

“The HCM Excellence Awards recognize programs that measurably benefit organizations,” said Mike Cooke, Brandon Hall Group CEO. “Many human capital management departments are unable to confirm that their initiatives help the business’s bottom line. Because we focus on measurable benefits, our awards program is universally recognized and highly prestigious.”

About UPMC

A $20 billion health care provider and insurer, Pittsburgh-based UPMC is inventing new models of patient-centered, cost-effective, accountable care. The largest nongovernmental employer in Pennsylvania, UPMC integrates 87,000 employees, 40 hospitals, 700 doctors’ offices and outpatient sites, and a more than 3.5 million-member Insurance Services Division, the largest medical insurer in western Pennsylvania. In the most recent fiscal year, UPMC contributed $1.2 billion in benefits to its communities, including more care to the region’s most vulnerable citizens than any other health care institution, and paid $587 million in federal, state and local taxes. Working in close collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, UPMC shares its clinical, managerial and technological skills worldwide through its innovation and commercialization arm, UPMC Enterprises, and through UPMC International. UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside is ranked #1 in Pennsylvania and #15 in the nation, and is one of only nine hospitals ranked in the nation’s top 20 of America’s Best Hospitals for 10 years in a row by U.S. News & World Report. UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh is ranked in the nation’s top 10 of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals by U.S. News & World Report. For more information, go to UPMC.com.

About DecisionWise

DecisionWise is an employee engagement firm specializing in employee engagement at the organizational, team, and employee levels. DecisionWise services include employee engagement surveys, multi-rater feedback assessments, leadership coaching, talent assessment, and organization development. With a primary mission to improve individuals and organizations by turning feedback into results, DecisionWise was founded in 1996, and is privately held. The company has corporate offices in the United States and dedicated affiliate partners throughout the world.

About Brandon Hall Group

Brandon Hall Group is an HCM research and advisory services firm that provides insights around key performance areas, including Learning and Development, Talent Management, Leadership Development, Talent Acquisition and HR/Workforce Management.

With more than 10,000 clients globally and 25 years of delivering world-class research and advisory services, Brandon Hall Group is focused on developing research that drives performance in emerging and large organizations, and provides strategic insights for executives and practitioners responsible for growth and business results.

Our Mission:

Empower excellence in organizations around the world through our research and tools each and every day.

At the core of our offerings is a Membership Program that combines research, benchmarking and unlimited access to data and analysts. The Membership Program offers insights and best practices to enable executives and practitioners to make the right decisions about people, processes, and systems, coalesced with analyst advisory services which aim to put the research into action in a way that is practical and efficient. (www.brandonhall.com)

Podcast: How to Increase Accountability

In this podcast episode, DecisionWise Consultant, Stephen Mickelson, discusses the topic of how to increase accountability inside of your organization.

In the DecisionWise Employee Engagement survey, we ask the questions:

  • Does my supervisor hold people accountable?
  • Do the people I work with take accountability for results?

At its core, accountability is about owning outcomes. This could mean owning mistakes, but people often overlook taking accountability for things done well.

When accountability is not happening in an organization, it creates a frustrating environment. Roles and responsibilities are unclear. Work remains unfinished. Some end up carrying the burden while others drift by. Managers need to address whether the issue is a problem of capabilities and provide additional training and clarification or if the problem is motivation and if so, have a conversation about whether the person is a good fit for the team.

One idea to increase accountability is to hold regular one-on-one conversations with your employees. “It’s a great opportunity to give redirecting feedback about where they are missing things, but also give re-enforcing feedback about what they are doing well,” says Stephen Mickelson. He continues, “Having those one-on-ones will help you build a relationship with your employees so that when you do need to have those strong conversations with them, they’ll be much more likely to listen to you and trust that you have their best interests and the interests of the organization in mind.”

Learn about these ideas and more on in this episode on accountability.

Manage Your Organization’s Stress Better

Manage Your Organization's Stress Better

Would you like to help manage your organization’s stress better? The feeling’s mutual. This desire ranks quite highly among our own clients. After employee engagement surveys close, we send our clients a satisfaction survey where they tell us what “materials” they are interested in. For the past year, stress has stubbornly held its place at number 4 on our report. With this in mind, we gathered our consultants to discuss why companies still struggle with stress, how it shows up in the workplace, and how to work through this persistent issue.

Are Companies Getting Better at Managing Stress?

Beth Wilkins

Beth Wilkins


As we look at our data from 2015 to 2018, we only have 65% favorability on, “The level of stress in my job is manageable.” This problem persists across our clients. Companies try to get as much from their employees as possible because that’s profitable for them. But this starts to create a transactional relationship. Employees start to feel a little bit of a grudge and become less engaged in their work. And so, we talk about engagement as wanting to give discretionary effort. When you’re in a state where your work is appreciated, and your feelings are considered, you freely invest more of yourself.

How is the Problem of Stress Manifesting and Affecting Engagement?

Dan Hoopes

Dan Hoopes


For healthcare organizations that I work with, if patient care is suffering, they can often link it back to stress and workload. In healthcare, you don’t want to have negative patient interactions. Their life can’t depend on the fact that an employee might be having a bad day.

Charles Rogel

Charles Rogel


Stress starts to affect growth, a driver of employee engagement. 

  • Employees ditch training or shy away from projects that might expand their capabilities
  • Opportunities dissolve
  • Creativity suffers, and people stop trying to innovate
  • People may be afraid to speak up or lack proper channels to voice concerns

Employees ultimately become frustrated and disengage.

Learn to Identify Stress Triggers

1. Stress from Growing Pains

Stephen Mickelson

Stephen Mickelson


While an organization’s growth is wonderful, it can pose some challenges. Managers may struggle with a couple of things:

  1. Leading growing teams with inexperienced employees
  2. Training employees at the pace of growth

Employees may be excited about the growth of the organization. However, they gain new responsibilities and heavier workloads. You must manage these changes or their excitement will fade to burnout.

2. Stress Caused by Misalignment

Dan Hoopes

Dan Hoopes


If I go back to the engagement model, I can easily see how stress affects “impact.” If you aren’t having the impact that you want, it may be because you’re overwhelmed and pulled in too many different directions. To get back on track, ask yourself these questions:

  • What am I responsible for achieving?
  • Is there misalignment around my priorities and where I’m spending my time?
  • What am I not going to do?
  • What tasks can I delegate? 

Listen as Dan talks about a time where the expectations of his manager created stress for him.

3. Stress over the State of the Company

Thomas Olsen

Thomas Olsen


There’s the stress in your everyday job and with your manager, but there’s also the stress of, “How are we doing as an organization?” Look at how senior leaders communicate and how they convey the company strategy. This may affect how employees feel about the company and where the company is going.

How to Work through Stress at Your Company

1. Figure out if the Stress is Temporary and Which Departments are in Danger

Charles Rogel

Charles Rogel


When we look at scores about stress with clients, we’ll try to understand if it is just temporary. Is it because your company is in a high growth mode? Are you trying to get a shipment out for an important customer? Sometimes a low score on stress doesn’t surprise leaders. Still, they show concern if it shows up for certain departments. Maybe your engineering department scores low around stress. It could lead to missed deadlines and deliverables and impact their engagement and likelihood to stay with your organization.

2. Identify Key Influencers before They Burn Out

Beth Wilkins

Beth Wilkins


Your key influencers are often under more stress than others in the organization. If you looked at a social network map, you find that people internally and externally go to them for information or advice. If you lose those people, it takes a big toll on the whole organization. Productivity and communication suffer.

And so, we need to identify who in particular is experiencing high levels of stress. One of the ways we do that at DecisionWise is through org network analysis. We can then coach key influencers to delegate more effectively, prioritize, and negotiate deadlines. This coaching helps them manage their stress and avoid burnout.

3. Work on Stress Solutions with Your Manager

Stephen Mickelson

Stephen Mickelson


Everybody needs to learn how to manage their own stress. Have a conversation with your manager and work through solutions together. My own manager and I recently discussed my heavy workload. I proposed that I go burn some stress at the gym mid-day. Although it’s a bit unusual for our work culture, he decided that was a good option. I come back after my session refreshed and ready to complete the day’s work. I’ve heard it said that people don’t get burned out because of what they do. They get burnt out because of why they do it. Keep an eye on workload scores in your survey results and get ready to act if they start to sink. Analyze those scores with the meaning items on the survey. You have a problem if workload scores and meaning scores drop at the same time. Meaning and purpose often soften stress for employees, even if their workload is heavy.

Dan Hoopes

Dan Hoopes


I remember when I was asked to be on a merger and acquisition team, specifically due diligence within the HR realm. I didn’t even really know what due diligence was. Errors and recalculations happened and there was so much stress in my life that it made me physically ill. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. But when I started to look forward with a growth mindset, I was able to appreciate an intense learning experience. That light at the end of the tunnel tied with a dramatic growth experience became a defining experience in my career. Leaders need to do a better job of helping employees see an endpoint and valuable purpose to the stress.

Thomas Olsen

Thomas Olsen


Listen as Thomas tells us about his time as a manager and how he helped ease the stress of employees.

The Balance of Stress and Burnout

Charles Rogel

Charles Rogel


One of the questions we use in our employee engagement surveys is: “The level of stress in my job is manageable.” Some people think, “I might have a high workload, but I’m able to manage my stress and my workload appropriately.” Others don’t feel as empowered to manage random projects thrown at them. 

Let’s consider the two types of stress. One is the bad stress that we typically associate with high blood pressure and anxiety. The other is eustress, which is good stress that you feel when you’re trying to accomplish something or grow. We don’t want to see this survey item score too highly, because people won’t feel challenged enough. But if that item scores too low, stress can lead to burnout, and that’s an employee engagement killer.

Beth Wilkins

Beth Wilkins


In regards to purpose, is your company vision compelling enough for employees to get behind? People sacrifice an incredible amount and dismiss stress when they care more about accomplishing a certain goal. I experienced this when I was working at Oracle and doing a PHD. I had this goal of designing a transformational executive program, and I was working with the University of Michigan and their key thought leaders on positive organizational change. And even though it was really hard, I was so interested in what I was doing, it didn’t seem like as big of a burden. I still felt tired, but I loved what I was doing and what it accomplished.

How do You Coach Clients on Stress?

Charles Rogel

Charles Rogel


Listen as Charles shares how department leaders added to their employee’s stress.

Beth Wilkins

Beth Wilkins


I tell clients to train managers on how to have an open dialogue around stress. Help them figure out how to give employees more meaningful work and accommodations during tough periods. Organizations should define their expectations and employees should tell the employer if they can’t meet all of the requirements. Middle managers should advocate for their teams and push back on upper-management when necessary. They can also help upper-management re-frame their expectations. 

I also recommend making time for fun! Even in a stressful time, you can take a little time to have fun with your colleagues: show each other funny videos, or have lunch together. When you have relationships with people, you are more resilient. You also build trust, which results in more support from others in tough times.

Dan Hoopes

Dan Hoopes


When I’m working with clients, I ask them three questions.

  1. Are you okay with your scores? (It’s important to calibrate how they’re feeling.)
  2. What internal resources and support mechanisms do you have to help individuals with high-stress jobs?
  3. How can you make their stress more manageable with these resources?

We know that if we’re on this uphill trajectory we will need resources to help employees stay engaged.

Stephen Mickelson

Stephen Mickelson


It is important to consider the job types at your organization. For example, if you’re a restaurant chain, you have various positions with different turnover rates. You may have a passionate kitchen staff excitedly pursuing their culinary career. On the other hand, you may have wait staff trying to earn money for the next step in their life. As a manager, you have to help those people connect the dots between their long-term plans and their current role. Help them find that meaning in the moment and how it contributes to their growth.


Webinar: Employee Engagement Tools and Analytics

Date: Wednesday, October 23, 2019
Time: 3:00 pm (Eastern)
Presenters: Christian Nielson, Joey Barry, and Jefferson McClain

HR technology is rapidly changing. There are more choices than ever to help the HR professional manage with what is becoming an increasingly important business function. To measure, understand, and improve the employee experience, choosing the right solution is critical.

Join us as we walk you through what to look for so you can choose the best set of tools and analytics to meet your organization’s needs.